I walk into a friend's room, finding used condom wrappers lying on the floor. She used to be the life of the party, going to nursing school, your model Christian girl...or so i thought.
A man has an affair with his secretary. Now he's divorced from his wife, and married to his secretary. He was a leader of thousands, a counselor for the floundering, a successful father...or so i thought.
A woman runs off with a guy from Chicago. Now she's divorced from her husband, who is left alone, wondering what happened to him. He no longer exists as the man I once knew. She was an avid singer, creatively proficient, a loving wife...or so i thought.
A boy puts on warm clothes and climbs out the bathroom window. His parents are left to search for him, not knowing where he went. He was just your stereotypical insecure grade-school-aged kid, who loved skateboarding, and making fun of his little brothers...or so i thought.
Each of these stories are about someone I know. Or, knew. Or, thought I knew. Maybe it's more along the lines of only being acquainted with these individuals. Some of them, I really thought I knew them as a friend, knew their life, could predict their moves, possibly count on them for advice.
But, when it comes down to it, I am realizing that, in any relationship, whether business or personal, whether public or private, long-time or newly-met, you can really only assume the best of someone. To do otherwise is unfair to everyone involved.
You see, everyone has a front. Every person has the God-given ability to determine, albeit to a degree, what they allow others to see of them. We live deeply personal lives. Not everything we think, or feel, or do, is necessarily on display for all to see and evaluate. We get to fabricate the "me" that we allow others to see.
Some decide to allow this mask to be more true to life than others. Some change masks at whim. Some cover the cankersores and gangrene-rot of the mess they are living behind a pretty mask. Some choose to hide true beauty behind a mask of rather unattractive proportions.
The closer you get to a person, and the more time you spend with them on a real level, the more transparent that mask becomes. As you get to be a true, deep friend of someone, the whole 'mask' idea desintigrates. It becomes impossible to maintain a false front, and the real "me" becomes known.
But until you reach that point, you really can only give them the benefit of the doubt. To assume anything other than what they allow you to see is mere speculation. You may be right. More than likely you are wrong...until you gain the trust necessary to see through their mask.
So, you see your friends, rather, acquaintances, in the light of your current level of relationship. If at work, you only see them in that environment. If at church, you only see the mask that they have crafted for that circumstance. If at school, the only person you will get to know is the one who crosses the threshold of that campus.
Our lives are puzzles. Riddles. And often it is possible to connect the dots and guesstimate the particulars of what we cannot see. But until, you get close enough, the only things you can really know about a person are what they choose to show you. You can only fairly take them at face value.
Some people desire to be an enigma to the casual observer. They have a need to allow only a close inspection to show the details necessary to solve the riddle. Recently, I read an entry from one such person:
I smiled a little bit to myself. I understand him, I understand him perfectly. He's not a jerk, he likes people, he likes things, he just smiles when he means it, not becuase it's expected. He wants to help people, and when he loves, he loves deeply. He's not here to impress, he wears slippers to dishcrew and studies on the picnic tables when it's cold outside. I understand, because he's just like me.
You all may think I'm morbid, and I never smile. You may not like me at first, you may think I'm just a jerk...and you may not stick around long enough to figure it out...
I'm just another girl, who maybe doesn't smile enough, but I love people, I'd like to serve my God with my life
(thanks to rainsoakedpages)
You can never really know what's going on. Most of what you see is just on the surface. This mask hides the real issues that are at work in our lives. And until our world falls apart, most of it would never be known.
So, I look at my 'friends', and wonder. In most cases, I will never understand what occurred to bring them to the place where they are. I can speculate. I can surmise. I can assume. But we all know what that does. And more than anything, I can, and should realize that, essentially, I am no different. I need to be careful myself to be on my guard lest I "fall from my own steadfastness."
No, I do not plan on baring the details of my soul to the world. That's not called for. But I strive for sincerity. I seek to trust others to look at the real "me" and tell me what they see. I regularly look into the mirror to see for myself what I am.
Maybe one day I'll understand people better. Maybe with time will come experience. Maybe I will simply cease to be shocked by the scenarios that play out around me. Until then, I do not seek to be a disappointment. So, the mask that is "me" is an effort to show what He is in me. I seek to follow Him.