Spending time with loved ones is always a stretching, shaping and enriching experience. When I am around the people who really know me I realise that Andre Gide’s observation, that it is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not, is actually an incredibly encouraging one.
My friends and family don”t hate me (although I definitely drive them up the wall from time to time) but they remind me who I am, where I come from and that being true to this is always more important than keeping up appearances. François Duc de La Rochefoucauld said a striking thing, “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”
I am immeasurably grateful for the people who make it their business to peel away the masks that I so easily plaster on. They are the ultimately the ones who help me carry the burden of freedom. As Jim Morrison put it, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.” They help me fight what e.e. cummings described as the hardest battle that any human being faces: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else.”
We may choose to ignore or postpone this battle but delays are not denials. Søren Kierkegaard said, “Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?” When this midnight hour strikes we run the risk of losing not only the faces we have created for ourselves but parts of who we truly are. Andre Berthiaume puts it beautifully, “We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.”