What Are You Hiding Behind?
Listening to the Ocean
As I'm sitting here, looking out into the ocean, I feel humbled. I feel humbled by its size, its expansive waters reaching to faraway places. It welcomes everything. It welcomes the boats, surfers, fish, birds, reflection of the sky, vegetation, and the sun. It is open and honest and it is accessible to everyone and everything.
The ocean makes me think about my life and it triggers me to reflect on how I should move forward. Staring out into the moving waters--the tides, the breaking surf, the curl of the waves-- I think of how I can become more open and honest in the world. The ocean makes me evaluate who I am and who I want to be. It speaks to me if I sit there long enough. It speaks to me if I listen.
The ocean tells me how I can live more genuine with others instead of just being a shadow of myself. It lets me know the secrets and the mysteries of living. The ocean's subtle communication tells when to be vulnerable, when to open up and when to pull back, just like the pulse of the ocean tides.
If you listen to the ocean closely, it whispers, We are all real and beautiful in our own natural way.
The Church of More and Something Better
When I'm alone looking out into the ocean, I realize that when I'm honest with myself, I see things more clearly.
Most of us are delusional in our own small way. We think that maybe if we were someone else, people would like us better. A lot of us feel that if we just lost a few extra pounds or had a full head of hair, we would get the love we deserved. The truth is these ideas do very little good. We go to the Church of More and Something Better and we become emptier and emptier. The harder we try to be something else--the more we lose. The more we hide ourselves from the world, the less everyone sees and the further we get from the respect and love that we all yearn.
For most of us, it is really hard to be ourselves and to stop hiding behind things like our appearance, humor, religion, fame, money and title.
How do we get out of the cycle of narcissistic desire? How do we become less egotistic? How do we get off of the wheel of attachment and to be satisfied with who we are and what we have? How do we get out from behind our mask and truly feel like we belong to this world whoever we are?
I Don't Want to be that Knight in Rusty Armour
One of my favorite stories is a novella called, the Knight in Rusty Armor by Robert Fisher. It is a story about a knight who was busy being a hero by fighting battles, slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress. He wanted to prove to the world that he was a courageous and a worthy person who was loved by everyone. He worshipped his suit of armor so much that he kept it on at all times. It eventually became rusty and he was unable to remove it. As a result, his faithful and loving wife Juliet and young son Christopher forgot how he looked without it. They felt abandoned by the knight as a husband and as a father.
The knight in the armor was disconnected from the people who really loved him. His obsession with hiding behind his armor resulted in the loss of people close to him. Luckily he woke up before it was too late and met someone who was able to help him to remove the armor. He took off his armor and revealed his face. Once the armor was off, he became real to his wife and his son and they started to know him again. He stopped hiding from who he really was.
We all wear that metaphorical suit of armor. We cover ourselves up with jewelry, hairpieces, designer clothing, and prestigious titles. We may not ride a horse but we drive a high-end car and we get a house on the hill and attach ourselves to all of society's symbols of success. We hide behind our upper-level corporate positions or our tenured university teaching jobs. We might call ourselves doctors and hide behind our medical degrees, but we are really a special person who is underneath that white jacket and dangling stethoscope. If only we could see it.
Celebrities and famous people have discovered that being loved and adored by millions can just be an illusion of being loved. Despite having millions of followers on Twitter, they are still very lonely. This loneliness makes them feel empty inside. When their popularity declines, as it often does, it becomes a personal crisis.
Fame is like any mask. When it doesn't work any longer, what do we do? Do we keep wearing it hoping that one day it will work again? Or do we find the courage to take it off?
Happiness Doesn't Come from Rescuing Damsels
In order to cope with life, we think we need something special--like a mask. The problem is once we put it on it is hard to take off. We've invested years and energy and a lot of pain and suffering in that mask.
We get used to hiding behind something. It protects us. It feels comfortable. It gives us an identity that we feel that we need. It satisfies our pride, our egotistic needs. We feel we need a mask in order to be a winner in life.
But the truth is, we are scared of who we are. We feel it isn't enough just to be us. We convince ourselves that who we really our isn't good enough. We need to dress up better, have clearer skin, a cuter nose, a bigger house, or perhaps a car that is the envy of the neighborhood. We do all these things because we feel that it will make us happy.
The reality is that happiness doesn't come from wearing a rusty suit of armor and rescuing damsels in distress and being a heroic knight.
Happiness comes from being ourselves without the mask, without the pretense.
So if you ever find yourself on the beach overlooking the ocean think about it. Think about whether you are hiding behind something. Are you wearing a mask that prevents you from living the life you really want--a honest and real one?
The ocean just might convince you to take off your mask and stop the charade.