• Sanyade Okoli

Dare to Remove the Mask (Not the COVID Protection One)

One of the most significant things that COVID has done is to expose us all; as individuals, families, businesses, nations, etc. Everything is laid bare. The image I got when I reached this conclusion some months ago was of the tide having gone out and our various states of nakedness being exposed. Even when our individual nakedness hasn’t been exposed to others, it has been exposed to us. Certain realities glaring at us, refusing to remain in the boxes we had previously kept them.

That’s actually been quite difficult; and difficult in many ways. There’s the weight of the issues exposed (for example, insecurities, strained relationships, business challenges, finances, etc) and then there is the fear of being found out.

The truth is that so many of us, in one way or the other, feel a bit of a fraud; having a public persona that doesn’t line up with our reality. For whatever reason, we have built public personas that have become traps. The personas bear no relevance to the reality of our lives and we are tired of pretending. Yet, we often don’t know how to get out.

You see, like any other trap, these personas stop us from being our best selves. Living our “best life” must involve us living OUR own lives and not anyone else’s - real or made up.

If we are honest with ourselves, this pandemic has made it even more exhausting to keep up the charade. It is taking every ounce of energy to keep the mask on and people are beginning to question the value of the mask. Let’s think of the mask as a weight that we picked up and, over time, placed in front of our faces. Initially it was fine, but after a while the weight got heavier and heavier and heavier. We are then forced to ask ourselves, “Why do I need to wear this mask again?”

The biggest impediment to getting out of this self-made trap is the fear of what people will say. The worry that not only would they think that we’ve been frauds, but they will reject the real us.

I believe that the Lord wants to encourage anyone feeling that way at the moment. You see, the Lord loves us completely. He loves us just the way we are. Not only that, He accepts us just the way we are. He doesn’t need us to pretend.

The Lord has such a sense of humour. As I finished the first draft of this post, He took me to a place in my journal where I had written the following a few months ago:

The Holy Spirit said that I need not fear ‘missing Him’. He dwells within me. I just need to remain in His presence and incline my ears to Him and I will know what to do, when and how. He reassured me that He is not going anywhere; He is here to stay. He says that I really do not need to perform for Him. He knows me inside out (literally 😊). I need to just learn to rest in Him; to put my full weight on Him; He is more than able to bear it.

Here’s a witty perspective on this whole thing. If I am wearing a mask then when my blessings come they wouldn’t recognize me and they would walk right past me. 😊 Kai!! Of course, that’s not true but it emphasizes the point that there really is no need to pretend for others.

It’s easy to think that we are being kept in this trap by others - family, friends, society.... The honest truth is that the key to unlock the cage is in our hands. We just need to choose to use it.

In order to be able to remove the mask, we will need to get comfortable with what is behind the mask. Knowing ourselves, loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. If you haven’t done so already, please do the self-reflection exercise on ( to help with this. If you can’t love and accept yourself then you will find it difficult to believe that others will.

Please don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I think it’s easy to break out of the trap. It’s just that no one else is going to do it for you. You need to decide you want to get out and begin to take steps to do so. I am also not suggesting you go out there “sharing your business” or, as we put it in Krio, “you belleh word” (I can’t think of a direct translation 😊; “belleh” means stomach so I guess it’s like saying your “deepest issues”). I completely get the concept of “relationship circles” and the wisdom of sharing information with people based on your level of true intimacy with them. There should, however, be some alignment between our real selves and what people see. In other words, authenticity.

So, if you feel ready to break out of the debilitating trap, here are some suggested steps. It’s important to recognize that it’s not going to happen overnight; it will be a step by step process; a journey towards this authenticity. Think of it as removing layers of dirty raggedy ill-fitting clothes - one by one by one. Most importantly, remember that Jesus is there with you through it all, helping you to remove the layers distorting your wonderful true self.

  1. Take time to ask yourself why you have felt the need to wear these masks. What have been the underlying assumptions? Is it because you feel that you are not good enough, that you may be rejected?

  2. Interrogate those assumptions. Are they really true? To what extent do they align with God’s perspective? Anything that doesn’t line up with what God says is a lie.

  3. Search your heart to see where you first learnt any lies that you have been believing.

  4. Forgive anyone who may have been involved - whether deliberately or inadvertently - in you believing the lie.

  5. Hand all the lies over to God. Picture yourself literally handing them over to God. Make an active decision not to take back those mindsets.

  6. Ask God for His truth on the situation.

  7. Ask the Lord to show you how He sees you.

  8. Repeat whenever you can until you feel like you have completely gotten rid of the mask 😊.


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