More on the Happy all the Time Mask
(excerpt from Real Women Don't Wear Masks, Carol Van Atta and Dr. Kathy Rodriguez)
Remember the popular television sitcom The Brady Bunch? It’s hard to forget the always-smiling faces of this all-American, blended family from the 1970’s. I never once saw Mrs. Brady yell at the kids. She rarely showed any signs of frustration at her husband, Mike, and she smiled through one family “crisis” after another all while looking super spiffy in her polyester pantsuits and jazzy skirt ensembles. Alice, their live-in housekeeper, smiled even more (if that was possible) than Mrs. Brady. No matter what was going on in the house, her Happy all the Time Mask remained securely on, her smile shining brightly.
Fresh cookies, anyone?
In the Brady Family, a glass of milk, hot chocolate-chip cookies, and a cheery smile solved every problem.
In reality, no one is happy all the time, and unfortunately, cookies aren’t a surefire prescription for problem solving. Yes, I know, cookies seem to do the trick at times, but, seriously, life is full of trials, tribulations, and multiple temptations. We are assaulted daily with challenges that test our faith beyond what we believe we can possibly bear without an understanding of God’s plan for contentment and authenticity — for joy.
When we begin to accept our true identities as daughters of the King of Kings, we will realize that smiling all the time isn’t the real deal. It’s kind of like eating spam rather than ham, or tasting that rubbery fake-seafood-stuff instead of enjoying succulent fresh crab, or wearing pleather not leather … the substitutes are simply no match for the authentic. There’s just something uniquely refreshing about smelling real leather that you can’t experience by sticking your nose into the sleeve of your faux suede jacket.
When we pretend to be happy all the time, we miss out on the genuine joy and freedom that comes from just being who we are: happy, sad, angry, lonely, fulfilled, excited, nervous … but, oh so loved by Christ. Feelings aren’t good or bad. It’s what we do with them. Ultimately hiding them behind a phony face, will not only cause us pain and suffering, but also end up confusing and hurting others.
The truth is that people need more than a feel-good face spouting feel-good anecdotes — they need the truth. So, if you think you’re helping by keeping your ultra-positive façade intact, think again. You’ll make a positive impact like never before by learning to wear authenticity and joy rather than the old, worn-out Happy all the Time Mask.
Wearing Authenticity and Joy
Hopefully, you have discovered that pretending to be “happy all the time” is not healthy, nor is it godly.
There is a striking difference between a phony smile and a joy-filled heart.
We can be afraid, uncertain, and even in deep emotional pain, yet still have an undercurrent of godly joy that flows through us, as we grasp the incredible implications of Romans 8:28 NIV: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We can wear a godly joy that is accompanied by truth. Living as a genuine woman of God, a woman who is able to express her true feelings honestly and openly, yet who still can see God’s future promises, is our goal. This level of authenticity and spirit-filled joy will get us through our darkest hours without pretending to be someone we were never created to be. No one is happy all the time.
In fact, only recently, new, intimate information regarding Mother Teresa has come to light via private letters to her close ministry friends and advisors. Maybe some people will see her admissions of doubt and pain as unspiritual, causing them to discredit her ministry. What I see is a woman, like the rest of us, who faltered in her faith and was scared at times to share what was hidden beneath her exterior — her Happy all the Time Mask.
According to a Time article by David Van Biema, her internal struggles were great and extended through much of her ministry. “That absence (of God’s presence) seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta and — except for a five-week break in 1959 —never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which had never before been published, she bemoans the ‘dryness,’ ‘darkness,’ ‘loneliness’, and ‘torture’ she is undergoing … She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. ‘The smile,’ she writes, is ‘a mask’ or ‘a cloak that covers everything.’”
Ladies, if one of the greatest Christian leaders of this century concealed her pain behind a mask, it is likely many of us have done, or do the same. I believe that God has now wiped every tear from this precious saint’s eyes, however, what a shame that she was unable to remove her mask and find true joy while living.
Let us not make the same mistake.
God’s Word has a great deal to say about joy and authenticity (truth, or being genuine). I challenge you to conduct your own topical search of these topics.
… the joy of the Lord is your strength. — Nehemiah 8:10 KJV —
So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. — Isaiah 51:11 NKJV —
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. — Psalm 32:11 NASB —
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. — 1 Cor. 13:6 NIV —
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. — Philippians 4: 8 RSV —
To Be Continued ...