There's nothing quite like Halloween -- people dressed
up in all sorts of costumes, wearing scary, unique,
or beautiful masks. It's fun to step inside a different
"skin" and see what it's like, especially
since it seems that we get judged according to our
"skin" -- our clothes, possessions, or general
appearance. Wearing a Halloween costume and mask is
a chance to be someone else or to be anonymous --
without being labeled.
Labeling people and objects is commonplace in today's
society. We adjust to those labels, consciously or
unconsciously. And we act differently because of those
labels, based upon the situation and the people --
whether we're at home or school; with friends, teachers,
or family; at interviews, work, or sports.
the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
You Like It, II.7
Playing different roles is not inherently wrong or
bad. But there are times when we play roles and, in
the process, forget who we really are or begin to
limit ourselves and our goals, expecting less and
less of ourselves as we become accustomed to the "role"
we're playing. And we do this to others, too: we stereotype
them. Some stereotypes aren't negative, but they almost
always put people (ourselves included) into rather
small boxes. Advertising exacerbates this problem,
making us think we all should look, act, and feel
a particular way when that's not who we are or what
we're like at all.
As a result of such pressure, we sometimes want to
hide who we are -- hide under different masks. What
do we want to hide? What about ourselves don't we
like or love? Appearance? Relationships? Believing
we lack creativity? Loneliness? Not feeling athletic?
Not being adventurous? The list could go on. And if
we keep building it, we're going to label and limit
ourselves even more.
Q How can we
be ourselves even though we play different roles?
Q How do we keep
our individuality instead of burying it under layers
labels or masks we wear?
A We have to
love ourselves and love others enough not to label.
A We have to
love ourselves and others as God loves us, and see
ourselves and others through
We also have to recognize the ways we limit ourselves:
- I'm not smart, creative, athletic, adventurous,
- I can't.
- I'm too fat (or too thin).
- I don't ever make good friends; my family relationships
Such statements hurt us by creating an image, attitude,
and set of behaviors for us that are not derived from
God. As a result, we deprive ourselves of enjoying
our heritage as God's children, created in His "image"
and "likeness" (KJV Gen. 1:26).
An image or reflection in a mirror does exactly what
the person standing in front of the mirror (the original)
does. The reflection cannot do anything by itself,
ever. In order to keep ourselves from getting lost
under a mask, it's helpful to think of ourselves as
the image and God as the original. As God's reflection,
we can't do anything He doesn't do. So, keeping in
mind the mirror metaphor, if we say that we are always
going to act in a particular way, that we can't break
old habits, that we can't be ourselves, then we really
are believing that God can't do something or that
there is a time when God is not God. In effect, we're
Jesus reminds us that "with God all things are
possible" (Mark 10:27). In reality, we cannot
limit God. And as God's reflection or image, we can
do anything good. But our perception does affect our
experience. So we have to realize how creating and
accepting labels alters our concept of God, ourselves,
and others. If we ever hope to succeed (at achieving
a goal, at expressing our true natures, etc.), then
we need to bring into our experience that which will
expand our horizons -- a concept of God as infinite,
as infinite good, infinite Love, which is available
We have to stop labeling others and making generalizations:
- He's a nerd. She's a brain. He's a jock. She's
- Athletes aren't intelligent. Artists aren't organized.
Guys can't multi-task. Girls are too emotional.
Putting others in boxes and sticking labels on them
is not fair, and is, in fact, downright mean. Book
and magazine covers and product labels all have the
same purpose -- to make the consumer buy the book
or the product. These labels generalize and categorize.
We must not do this to people because labels are superficial.
A product is one thing; a person is entirely different.
People have a depth and strength and uniqueness to
them that transcends the outward appearance. People
say, "You can't judge a book by its cover;"
yet so many people do. Plus, they judge people, who
are much more valuable than books.
Often the labels we attach to others are unfounded,
racist, sexist, biased, or naïve. When we stereotype
others, and then base our actions upon those labels,
we are denying ourselves the ability to learn from,
enjoy, and get to know individuals who may have some
incredible ideas, emotions, and experiences to share
with us. Moreover, if our labels are wrong, we're
the fools, since we've been acting upon inaccurate
Labels often have a paralyzing effect on others,
just as they do on us. Labels don't give others chances
to grow or to be themselves. It's hard enough to pry
off our own masks, especially in high school where
there's so much peer pressure to fit in with the crowd.
We don't need to make it harder for others to take
off their masks and find themselves. Rather, as Christians,
we should be finding what's good in others. We should
be making friends and helping others, not hurting
Words -- labels -- can hurt. That old adage, "Sticks
and stones may break my bones, but words can never
hurt me," isn't very accurate. Often, words do
more damage than any broken bone ever could. We have
to be careful about what we say -- or think -- about
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment
ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure
ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Matt.
When you judge -- label -- others, you're opening
up yourself to be labeled. And then, since you've
bought into the whole concept of labeling, you have
to spend time and energy to break through them. Of
course, prayerful listening to God and His angel messages,
which tell you that you are His beautiful child, makes
it easier to take off the masks.
The Golden Rule helps us to keep from limiting ourselves
or others with un-Godlike labels. Jesus said:
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior:
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you,
then grab the initiative and do it for them.
The Message Matt. 7:12
If you'd like help to be yourself, then "grab
the initiative" to help others be themselves.
See them as God's children by appreciating their individuality,
by not pigeon-holing them into certain groups. Because
God is infinite, He has an infinite way of expressing
Himself. Each individual is part of God's infinite
array of beauty. No two people are alike. We know
that. And it is our greatest privilege to be the individual
God created -- unmasked. When we appreciate God's
beauty in all its forms, we find that our identity
is incredibly diverse, strong, and unique; and so
When we understand that loving ourselves as God made
us is completely natural, then we can be ourselves
in any situation. Of course, different situations
require different behaviors. But that does not mean
that we change who we are. It just means that we have
the opportunity to express God's infinity in a variety
Halloween costumes, while silly to think about wearing
them all year around, are representative of what people
do every day -- put on masks to hide themselves or
to show different faces. We might want to ask ourselves:
- What costumes do I put on everyday?
- What labels do I attach to others?
- How am I going to take them off?
It's easy with costumes: you simply remove them.
And it can be that easy with personality traits, if
you allow it to be. There's no need to hold onto labels
you don't want, or have outgrown, or that have never
really been part of you at all. And, if we find that
it's hard to de-mask ourselves or stop labeling others,
we can have the same trust in God that Paul had when
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then
face to face: now I know in part; but then shall
I know even as also I am known. KJV I Cor. 13:12
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass
the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same
image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit
of the Lord. II Cor. 3:18
Eugene Peterson's translation of these words helps
give us peace and hope as we work to understand how
to recognize and express our God-given identity:
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting
in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be
long before the weather clears and the sun shines
bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly
as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he
knows us! The Message I Cor. 13:12
Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with
the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured
much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming
brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives
and we become like him. The Message II Cor. 3:18