“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Kurt Cobain
Would you? Would I? Most people, in their hurt and brokenness, seek to be loved for who they are not. They long for love so much that they are willing to wear a mask to be lovable. They fear that people who currently love them would stop loving them if they saw who they really were and what they really believed; that if they removed the lovable mask (whatever that might be for the person) they would be rejected. And in some cases, depending on the people who love them and the conditions that must be met to receive that love, their fears are very real: some people will not love them for who they are but only for the mask they wear. So they would rather be loved for who they are not. And if that is where they are at, that is ok, though they are missing out on tremendous joy, freedom and true life.
But others have reached a certain breaking point. They have grown weary of wearing the masks. The burden of constantly hiding and editing and pretending has become unbearable and they just can’t shoulder it any more. They have realized that with or without the mask, there will always be some who love them and others who do not; that no matter what they believe, or who they are, or what they do, they will never, ever, ever, ever please everyone enough to elicit universal love. Their inner turmoil causes them to finally rip off the masks, shattering them to the ground, exclaiming, Come what may…this is who I am.
Yet when they timidly step out of the shadows—naked—they find that some who used to love them recoil and run (and perhaps throw stones). Their fears came true and they wonder if they made a grave error. But then out of their own shadows come others who are naked and unashamed, and they cast a love that is more genuine than what could ever have been thought possible. They are quick to embrace and deeply, deeply care for the other: naked or masked.
The scale has tipped and they fear being loved for who they are not more than they fear being hated for who they are. And once they taste the life and freedom and joy and peace that comes with risking all to be who they truly are, the rejection and pain and loss and turmoil that also comes begins to shrink back into the shadows, growing smaller and lighter with every decision to choose truth over lies.
And something else shows up for them, they see the life of fear and pain that others are living in behind the masks. They see it in their glassy eyes. They see it in the fake smiles. They see it in their self-protecting actions. They see it beneath their love-me costumes. And their heart breaks. It breaks in part because it reminds them of how they used to live and brings back all the pain and sadness that accompanied it, but it also breaks because they cannot remove the masks for them—it is something that only the person wearing the mask can do. All they can do is love and be themselves, and so that is what they strive to do.
Each naked here-I-am step they take births the courage and fortitude to take another here-I-am step, and another, and another, until one day they find that those are the only steps they can take. And they too can proclaim that they would rather be hated for who they are, than loved for who they are not.
And their mask-less steps and here-I-am proclamations encourage others to risk all for the sake of true love.
For when they do, they find a God who they thought always existed but never had permission to seek and embrace. And this God, who deeply loves the masked and unmasked alike, smiles, and says, “Welcome home child, welcome home. I love YOU for YOU are who I created. I did not create your mask, I created YOU. Thank you for your courage and for honoring my creation and love of YOU. I know it is difficult, but come, let me to embrace YOU. It’s okay. I won’t hurt or shame YOU. Shall we dance?”
And in pure, unashamed nakedness, YOU dance.
YOU, not the mask.