If you ever get the chance, just have random conversations with Pastor Carlos. He is sure to spit out a nugget that has your mind reeling. In a recent discussion that we were having he said, “The hardest thing for a human to do is learn character rather than masks.”
It got me thinking of all the layers of masks that we place on each day. Some are so subtle we don’t even realize we are wearing them.
If you are up on your Watts (or Buddhism in general) you have heard that we are God playing hide and seek with ourselves. Going on that theory, the first mask we put on is that of human separating ourselves from each other and also binding us to the world of opposites.
Then we place this mask on of gender with all the connotations that have. Furthering the separation from each other. This mask comes with some roles we are expected to play. Some actions we are expected to perform.
If that isn’t enough, we put on identity masks such as smart, athletic, confident, flexible, brave, and many others. All of which adds a world view for us to react to. If the world is scary, bravery would be an awesome reaction but watch any good horror movie and you know that often the reaction is paralysis.
Now, unfortunately, many of these masks were given to you along with a script by the society of which you are a part. Those masks and those scripts are being passed down generation after generation with little changes to the stage direction like a long-running Broadway play where restaging often comes with critical acclaim but public outcry.
So how do we learn character outside our masks?
It starts with knowing we have the masks on and that most or them we can take off. It is hard sometimes to be unmasked. It leaves us as vulnerable as a freshly molted dragonfly nymph but without the molting, we can’t get our wings.
Next defining ourselves without the masks. I did an exercise on this during this year’s summer camp that can be found here.
Finally, it is living a life of integrity. When I talk about integrity, I want to point out a couple of things. The first is that integrity is not morality. The Temple defines “integrity” as being consistent. I personally define it as whole and complete. Notice there is nothing moral about either definition. In fact, the very next Jedi Maxim is "Morality" which cautions against staunchly defining right and wrong.
Morality lives in the world of black and white. We are going to be drawn to make those definitions for ourselves. Yet, I will like to assert that integrity lives above that.
Our access to that world is doing what we said we would do, doing what we know to do, doing what we are expected to do, and doing so in a timely fashion.
A great example of this is taking out the garbage. Now in your household, it is likely that someone either explicitly said they would oversee garbage, or it is implied by that societal norm. (In my family, women don’t take out the garbage.) Now if you are the one, how many times have you pushed it down because you didn’t want to take it out at that moment? While again, you may not have explicitly said that you would take care of the garbage but you know that garbage has to be taken care of and you are expected to do it and if it doesn’t go out it will cause a big mess.
It isn’t bad or wrong, it just works or doesn’t.
Now garbage is a simple example but what about being on time for a meeting? There are things that may have prevented us from being there on time, and there are impacts on others when we are late. It is in those moments that, much like the trash, we must clean it up.
- It starts with acknowledging the broken agreement without excuse. (Hey, I see that I am late)
- Next getting the impact of the broken agreement. (I honor and respect your time and honestly want to make sure to be responsible for any impact this has had. What is there for you to say?) LISTEN WITHOUT DEFENDING!
- Take responsibility for the impact. (I can completely understand that and it isn’t my intention to leave you in this space)
- Make a new agreement (I will make sure to call you as soon as I realize that I am going to be late so that you aren’t wondering what is going on.)
- HONOR THE NEW AGREEMENT
Just a slight caveat, responsibility does not equal blame. I can write a whole talk about the differences there and the power of taking responsibility in all things, but I will leave that for another day.
To summarize I invite you to:
- Talk to Pastor Carlos if you want your mind blown.
- Notice that you are wearing masks, most of which but not all can be taken off.
- Define your role by looking at who you are without the masks, what your purpose is, and what your version of success is.
- Live with an “Integrity First” mindset.
- Take responsibility for everything in your life.
- Know that you are loved!