Sometimes you need to keep your true feelings hidden so that you can accomplish the mission.
This article is the fifth in a five-part series of articles sharing wise words from others. Click the links below to check out the other articles in the series.
In today’s edition of Wonderful Words from Others will highlight my favorite poem from Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask.” Children often think that one of the best things about being an adult is being able to say whatever you feel whenever you want. Unfortunately, that idea could not be further from the truth. Adulthood is full of situations where one must keep her true thoughts and feelings under wraps.
Why should the world be over-wise,
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!
In this poem, McKay was talking about the masks that black people in America wore in front of the white world during his lifetime from 1872 to 1906. During that time, blacks did not enjoy the rights and privileges they do today. In order to survive they had to hide their true feelings about the injustices they faced. If instead of wearing a mask, a black man were to show how he truly felt about not being able to get fair pay, being treated unfairly and being denied equal protection and opportunity, he very likely would face imprisonment or death.
We need masks in many different circumstances each day.
The racial dynamic in America has changed over the course of the past 100 or so years. But there are still times when we need to wear a mask in order to get done what needs doing. I was recently speaking with a friend who had a problem with an administrative official when she was trying to get something done for her children. She thought the official was rude, ignorant, and wanted to deny her requests. So, my friend got angry, showed her anger and walked away without the help she needed. It was more important to her to make the administrator feel small and unimportant than to get what she needed for her children. She did not wear a mask.
I told her she needed to suck up her anger with the woman and have a different attitude in order to get what she wanted. She should have worn a mask. Instead of letting the official see her anger and disgust, she should have taken a different tact. I have found it useful to tell people that I do not know how to get done what I want to be done and that I really need their help. Most people like to help others. When I have taken this tact with people, asked them to do me a favor and help me, I almost always get favorable results. I never let the bad attitude of someone else stop me from getting what I want and need for my children. I have learned to mask anger and instead show a desire for assistance.
Had my friend worn a mask and not shown her true feelings she could have gotten what she wanted for her children. Once that mission was accomplished, she could have spoken with the administrator’s supervisor, filed grievances, and done other things to make sure the administrator was sorry for her poor behavior. We must never forget the old saying, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”
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We don’t always have to let everyone know everything we are thinking and feeling. Sometimes we need to wear a mask. So the question for you this serene day is how do you cover negative feelings and emotions so that you can act appropriately and get what you need in life?