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Monday, April 18, 2011


by John Swann, Associate Director

We Wear the Mask  






We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask! 

-Paul Laurence Dunbar 


This poem speaks to what happens on a regular basis in today’s society. We all wear masks because there are different masks that we need wear. We have many hours working to craft our mask.  We wear the mask every day.  The mask usually always has a smile regardless of our true circumstance.  Is this something that we do as believers?  We grin to cover up real feelings and lie to get out of situations that we cannot deal with?  We often pay a debt to be crafty or stylish, but is it really worth it?  We have torn and bleeding hearts and yet we do smile. No one knows the pain and agony that is felt inside the soul.  We wear the mask to mask the true reality of our current situation.

Dunbar, just like the average believer wants to be free, clear and honest, but does not want to be made a spectacle of.  That’s why he suggests, “Why should the world be overwise, in counting all our tears and sighs?” unless we wear the mask people will count our tears and sighs.  This is something that the mask covers and stops the world from seeing. He further suggests, “Let them only see us while we wear the mask.”  How many of us are wearing a mask while we are hurting inside? 

Choosing to smile is something that most will do.  Alas, it is Christ who hears our cries and only him who receives them. Dunbar speaks of rapture and being drawn to Christ.  We sing which is often a form of expression in the African American community.  It is through song that we worship and praise a mighty God who has brought us a mighty long way.  Finally, Dunbar speaks about the journey and the mile being long.  Through the middle passage, slavery, civil rights, Jim Crow, segregation, integration and now to the White House some people still wear masks, in spite of their socio-economic status.

Although African Americans have had to wear the mask, Christians have had to wear the mask as well.  On jobs that “black ball” you because of your faith, in the school systems where talking about faith is not a real option, even in some churches we wear the mask over and over again. 

Today, I plead with you take off the mask and allow your face to breath.  Allow people to see the person that you really are.   You can fool a whole village, but you cannot fool God.  God knows the person that is under the mask, the person you are trying to be and the person that you are when you look in the mirror at home.   I suggest this, allow God to comfort your sighs and tears, let Him rock you and comfort you and allow your true beauty to show, TAKE OFF THE MASK!

Posted at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)