“As a stake leader, I put on my ‘leadership mask’ before every meeting. You know, smile and wave, smile and wave.”
As the woman continued to speak during her presentation about some of the Stake’s initiatives for 2018, I glanced around the room to gauge reactions as she continued to share about how she puts on her mask to hide her struggles with depression.
Some people were staring at their phone screens, some glanced at her, almost everyone seemed to be disengaged.
Masks aren’t healthy
For myself, I was disturbed. It is exactly this attitude of mask-wearing that has made me question many times if this faith is the right one for my family. We believe in the doctrine 110%; however, the culture of projecting perfectionism often makes me feel uncomfortable. I do not like fakeness.
Did you know that young adults and teens are leaving religion in droves? They are leaving because they feel that religion lacks authenticity. It is a place where people talk the talk and aren’t walking the walk.
I wonder if these individuals leaving religion have struggled as I have. Wondering if there is a “members’ only” club among the Lord’s elect, with no room for me and mine.
We see them every Sunday, those in this private club: the mask wearers. These are those people who greet each other with nods of acceptance, cluster in groups of two or three mask-wearers and discuss how very busy and full their lives are. They will welcome a new convert willingly, maybe even have them over for dinner, but there the charity ends. There is no genuine outreach of fellowship and friendship.
Masks don’t really fool anyone
They will serve wherever required but do no more than is asked of them. A mask wearer fools themselves into thinking that they are someone who is strong in the faith.
The sad delusion is that those who wear a mask often think they are fooling others when usually they only fool themselves and other mask wearers.
If you only reach out in fellowship to make a show of your charity, the superficiality of your welcome will soon lose its luster. A mask only shows what you want others to see. But a mask is very obvious to anyone who gets close. Because of your mask, others are kept at a distance. That’s the purpose of a mask, to hide behind it. You don’t want anyone to see what’s beneath.
They might see your vulnerabilities, your flaws.
Being who you really are is vital
Why do so many members rejoice with Elder Holland’s open acknowledgment of mental illness and personal struggles? Because too many leaders put on an over-polished image of perfection that is an unrealistic mask!
We NEED to see that leaders struggle. We need to know that your path of discipleship looks like ours: full of potholes, rocks and winding paths. We look to our leaders, not for a pattern of perfection—there is only ONE perfect pattern: our Savior.
We look to you for guidance and for nurturing care when we have stumbled and lost our way.
Doctrinally, each of us is seeking to be like our Savior by repenting and relying on His mercy and grace to help us reach perfection. Only by patterning ourselves after Him and becoming what He wants us, individually, to be, can we find inner strength and peace.
True disciples don’t wear masks
Discipleship isn’t a mask we put on and take off at will. Discipleship is a painful molding of ourselves, as we strive to change behaviors that aren’t pleasing to God.
We work to change our habits. And we fill our time with serving others. We spend time immersing ourselves in prayer and scripture study—to discover how Christ lived and how He would have us live.
Each time we adjust our behaviors to put forward our best selves, we mold ourselves to be more like our Savior. This molding of myself is not a superficial mask, rather it is a deep struggle to lay aside my selfish desires and focus on another’s needs.
The leaders who have most touched my life are the ones who aren’t concerned with impressing other people with their callings or status. They are quietly behind-the-scenes, stacking chairs, setting out food, and serving anywhere there is a need. They understand that where you are called to serve does not matter to the Lord. How you serve is all that matters.
You can pretend you are a disciple of Christ, or you can BE a disciple of Christ.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.