Monthly Archives: October 2015

Masks, Costumes and Self Perception

Halloween is this week. With it comes the question of “what is your costume this year?” Or perhaps, “do you dress up for Halloween?” The candy aisles have been overflowing with bags of sugary treats and plastic pumpkins, inflatables ghosts and witches and mega spiders are everywhere.

Not everyone likes Halloween. Some are opposed for religious reasons, others just don’t like dressing up or wearing masks or handing out candy. It can be a night not just for fun, but also for some not so fun mischief. I tend to fall into the camp of enjoying Halloween.

My husband and I have been discussing what our costumes will be this year. Each year the congregation I serve hosts a “Trunk or Treat” on Halloween itself. We always do a trunk (or in most cases the back of his 1946 Chevy Panel Truck).

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Trunk or Treat is a great neighborhood outreach and it’s loads of fun for those who participate. This year, like most years, we haven’t figured out our costumes. I don’t want to work that hard at it, and sometimes I have just worn a Halloween vest over a black turtleneck. This year, however, we have a Friday Halloween Party AND Trunk or Treat on Saturday, so a little thought goes into the whole “what are we wearing this year.”

When I was much younger dressing up was fun. Being in drama for the same reason: getting to be someone or something I was not. There are all kinds of super heroes: Wonder Woman, Super Girl, Rogue or Jean Grey or Invisible Woman (of course her costume is somewhat problematic!) There are historical figures: queens or princesses or warrior women. I could be a villainess: Cat Woman, Ursula, the wicked witch, Maleficent. Or just the ordinary kinds of people: 1950’s girl in a poodle skirt, cowgirl, a queen or princess or a doctor or a nurse.

Children seem naturally to enjoy “dressing up.” It only takes a hat, or a scarf, or a belt or shield and their imaginations run wild. They can be anything.

I have heard some people comment that costumes and masks are just a way hiding. Why not be who we really are? Why hide?

I have come to believe that we as human beings hide all time and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Perhaps we don’t wear a mask or a costume, but we hide nonetheless. We hide using the things we wear, sometimes wearing makeup and sometimes not, we hide behind phrases and hand gestures and donning different personas.

I have watched as people hide themselves by being “cool” or “nerdy” or “sophisticated” or “hip.” I have seen people use words to cover up their feelings and their true thoughts. Using cynical phrases to deflect attention, or coolly cutting down other’s efforts with mockery. We use our suits or our jeans or our sunglasses as armour to protect ourselves from being hurt, or being mocked or belittled. We use our schedule and our busyness to hide from others.

I guess my point is, that as human beings we don’t need a special day to hide behind a costume, we hide all the time. I understand it. The world can be frightening and painful. We hide because we have been hurt. How much do we miss in terms of love and laughter and life because we hide? While all of us get hurt sooner or later, hiding mean that the hurt continues because of our inability to move past the pain.

If costumes can help children create and discover themselves, they can the same for adults. We can play at being something we may not realize is part of our inner being. We can practice wearing costumes,playing roles and then taking them off and being authentically who we were created to be.

I intend in the next few days to dress us, eat more candy than I should and enjoy playing and laughing again. I will delight in the hundreds of children and costumes I will see at Trunk or Treat. I will savor the gift of those I know who are authentically real with me. I don’t like hiding, and I pray that I live in such a way that gives honor the unique and unrepeatable person that God has created me to be.  Happy Halloween!

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