The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Heart of the Matter March 2024

Hiding behind a mask is a socially acceptable thing we do at Purim or Halloween for fun but many of us are hiding behind a different mask every day.   

As Purim approaches, I am thinking about the everyday masks some of us wear. The woman in the grocery store with a smile on her face that helps you reach a high shelf who hides domestic violence behind her mask. The neighbor or co-worker who has a hidden addiction behind their mask. The friend who greets you with a smile but feels depressed and suicidal behind their mask. Your sister celebrates your pregnancy with you but is devastated at her own infertility behind her mask. 

We all wear masks at different times, which are neither good nor bad.   

In my work at JFS, I see people whose mask helps them survive. Sometimes one’s world is not emotionally safe to let the mask down.   

I see people who wear a mask to hide feelings that are too difficult to look at or the person does not have the skills to address.  

I see people who have hidden behind a mask of social norms because they felt obligated to act in a certain way.  

I see people hide behind a mask of grief because some days their grief is so strong that it’s too painful to take off. 

Masks can be a positive coping skill but only when they are utilized strategically and temporarily. It is good to have a support system of trusted individuals where you can share who you are in an authentic way without a mask. Although this can be a scary, difficult experience at times, it can also be a positive, bonding experience. There is no greater gift than that of sharing yourself with someone or having someone share their true self with you. As we celebrate Purim with costumes and masks, let’s keep in mind that behind every mask is a person with feelings and we never truly know what they are experiencing so be gentle and forgiving whenever possible. 

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