Behind the Mask – Fear or Love?
We are now well into our third year of dealing with COVID-19. The official date when the entire world changed (maybe forever) is open for debate. For me personally it was March 12th, 2020 when the NHL season was put on hold (a day that will live in infamy for all rabid hockey fans like me). However, it is now clear that even though we weren’t aware of it, the virus was certainly spreading around the world in December of 2019 and likely for months prior.
So, on December 13th of 2021 as I go about my day, I don’t go anywhere without my trusty mask. I live in a part of the world (Calgary, Alberta) where masking in any public place is mandatory so I dutifully follow the rules as does almost everyone I come in contact with. To say I have mixed feelings when I don the mask is perhaps the understatement of the year. I wonder, am I masking because of fear, or love?
I’ve come to accept over the years the concept, shared by a variety of spiritual teachers and religious leaders, that moment by moment we truly are coming from either one place or the other: fear or love. By being aware of that philosophy I have learned to catch myself operating from a place of fear and by noticing my behaviour in the moment I am sometimes (certainly not always) able to switch to love. When we realize fear has taken over and we focus on love instead, the results can be amazing.
When I put my mask on is it because I am afraid of getting and/or spreading the evil virus? Or am I simply executing on a small act of kindness, loving those around me by taking a relatively small precaution to demonstrate my caring for others?
When I got vaccinated was it because I am afraid of becoming sick and potentially ending up in an ICU on a ventilator and even dying before my time? Or is it because I “trust the science” and am simply following rules that I believe are put in place by leaders who are themselves trusting people who’ve made it their life’s work to study communicable disease and how to protect people from pandemics?
Has the world’s response to COVID-19 been a sad example of fear driving mass hysteria and outrage from a large segment of people who refuse to be manipulated by big pharma, corrupt politicians, and the wealthy and powerful class who profit on crisis? Or has this global response been, with all its failings, the single greatest example of people around the globe pulling together in a spirit of love and kindness to deal with an unprecedented threat on the health of humans?
Mask or no mask, we get to choose what we see when we look into the eyes of our fellow man. With our faces mostly covered, one must look more closely and with greater intention to see whether fear or love is coming through. And as we look out, especially behind the mask knowing that the people we are interacting with can’t see our smile, we get to choose to look out with love instead of fear. Our love must be even more intentional so that our smile behind the mask will be sure to shine through our eyes.
I’ve been that guy with a naturally grumpy look on my face my whole life. I’m the opposite of those blessed people who’s default expression just naturally seems to be bright and friendly. Early on in my career I learned to intentionally smile when appearing on television. Seeing that grumpy expression on video tape I quickly adjusted to making a point of smiling as my default position when on camera. Those closest to me can attest that although I’ve become somewhat more friendly looking over the years, unfortunately I haven’t yet mastered the friendly smily face as who I am without thinking about it.
I have however been intentional in my efforts and have for the most part learned to smile when first making eye contact with people. And, maybe more importantly I’ve also learned to be more intentional about making eye contact at all. It comes from an awareness, over time, of the fear or love dichotomy.
So, does adversity bring out fear or love in you? Are you approaching this pandemic, whether real or fake, with an overarching attitude of fear or love? Are you making that extra effort to connect with people while masked, or taking the opportunity to hide behind your mask and avoid eye contact?
I, like probably most, are doing a bit of both. I do live in fear at times, and in my heart I know that love is the only answer.
As we approach our celebration of the birth of Christ, and our second Christmas aware of COVID-19 (and our third with it in our midst) I for one am surrendering to a position of love, not fear. Jesus, we believe, loved freely as he walked this earth and he let no earthly evidence of fear detour him in any way from his path of love. Mask or no mask, I implore you to let your love shine on all those you come into contact with. And like me, be grateful for the awareness of fear and love that this pandemic has revealed.
by Randy Lennon