the courage to be
September 9, 2013 by
Categories: Miscellaneous

Cup of coffee in hand and breeze forming around me as I sit on the fire escape, I pick up the first book on my windowsill, “The courage to be.” I thought twice about flipping through pages that may spur me to think too deeply on a light Saturday morning. Remembering that I’ve already read the first few chapters, I browsed through the sections that had previously grabbed me and were marked with pencil.

Of course, what I ended up reading was exactly what I needed to read:

Epictetus says, “For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship.” Our anxiety puts frightening masks over all men and things. [Paul Tillich] p. 13

“The mask” is a powerful metaphor that resonates with the anxiety and fear I sometimes place over others and experiences. It strips away reality and in its places lies a wild imagination that distorts the true nature of others and heightens our fear. Tillich says that those horrors connected with imagination, which is true even of death, (i.e. the final hour merely completes the death process, as we are dying every day) vanish once the “mask is taken away from the image of death.”

I realize that both death and fear are heavy subjects, but at this point, I still remain light. It is always easier for me to process these matters in hindsight, when I can remain more objective. I called a friend to ruminate on the subject, and dug deeper into the masks I place on others. The anxiety that I had been building created a false sense of security; if I feel anxious or guilty over things, it legitimizes the own mask I place on myself. It shows that I have a conscious.

I’m realizing more and more that it does nothing of the sort. It has only limited my freedom and my relationships with those I place masks on. I came away with the affirmation that I would begin to show more of myself, in effort to also give others the chance to be who they really are. While it’s become a normality to shift identities around different people and environments, my shape shifting has become less fluid and requires more energy between “changes.” I now question if that’s how I want to spend my energy.

With that, I hope that I can truly find the courage to be.

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