In this podcast, I interview business performance expert Jon Thurman.
Jon currently serves as Executive Vice President & Board Member of Insurance Office of America. He is also a LifeWork Coach with LifeWork Leadership Orlando helping business leaders grow as transformative leaders in their community as they integrate their faith and their work in the marketplace.
During this conversation, we talk about an important challenge that many of us face through the grieving process as a widower – our leverage of masks – how to recognize when we are using them, and how to remove them to experience true love and peace.
Jon: A Mask is anything that we might put on, that would keep us from being our authentic self. With the key word being Authentic. Now, it’s important to note that anyone that may have a figurative mask on doesn’t suggest they’re an inauthentic person. I just simply says, as life comes out as hard, hitting us with challenges, people situations, losses, that cause us to have to put on a shield to basically just feel safe, and to feel protected. So I think anything that we just put on in a figurative sense, that blocks the world from seeing who we really are.
Jon: There’s a great quote, from Norman Cousins who took a quote that Albert Schweitzer had put out early on, and he added to it, but it says, “The tragedy of life is what dies inside of a man, while he’s still alive”. Norman Cousins says, this is the loss of genuine feeling. So the mask can be on so often that numbness can keep us from feeling again.
Tom: You’ve got this persona and this mask that you’re portraying out there, to your friends, to your family, to associates to the world, and then you’ve got your real self. And there’s an incongruence between those two things. And I think that’s where depression occurs. That’s where sadness occurs. And I think until you’ve got that congruently back, that you really can’t find true joy and happiness in this world. If you’ve got a mask, and then you’ve got yourself, and you’re never living up to the expectations of the mask, and the mask isn’t revealing your true self. I think therein lies most of the strife that we experience.
Jon: What I’ve learned, in particular with men, so many men spend their life’s energy on who they’re not and living in fear of being found out. And it’s like running in a race with no finish line. It’s exhausting. So, synonymous, really, in a sense, when you wear the mask, it’s exhausting. Because there is no finish line to the false front. Because it’s not you, you’re not living out of your true self and your true identity.
Tom: I could remember John, when I had those masks on, front and center, what I would say all the time was: “I’m tired. I’m exhausted”. It is exhausting to keep that mask on. And to keep up that facade. Like you said, you could short term be: sometimes we need to, walk in that room and put that happy face on. Sometimes you need to walk in the room and put that strong face on. But I think over time, if you do it too long, I think you just become exhausted from it.
Jon: If you keep that mask on for too long, the challenge is that we can be so comfortable with it, we can kind of forget it’s there.
Jon: When I think about one of the simplest. expeditious ways to lose that mask, is inviting people into your story. The interesting phenomenon about human nature is that as you invite people into your story, almost irrespective of your story, they will see something of themselves in your story. And when that happens, you’ve made an emotional connection that transcends the mask level.
Tom: I want to talk about ”story” a little bit, because the most amazing stories that we get sucked into is when there are superheroes involved. The best of those stories, what’s the key? The superhero is vulnerable, right? They have a weakness and they’re not super in every way. And I think we try to go out there into the world like we are superheroes. And you don’t connect with a superhero, if they’re flawless. What we connect with are the flaws in those superheroes, the humanity of them. We as men go out there trying to be superheroes all the time, when the better story actually, could be to let those vulnerabilities fly. You can of course come off as being too vulnerable at times, but I think showing some of that vulnerability will actually endear people to you.
Jon: I would contend that Authenticity is the most foreign language in the world, but one that people are desperate to speak, and to hear.
Jon: So the principle behind the scripture Corinthians 12:9 is if you want to unleash the higher power, you have to embrace the weakness, and in this will reveal strength. And this means leading with transparency. You have to invite people in, because that’s what neutralizes the lie. That’s what makes the ground even again, right.
Tom: A lot of times we try to cover up the weaknesses and the hurts, as we ask for relief from it rather than embracing it. One of the things that I love is Japanese Kintsugi, which is golden joinery. A long time ago, aJapanese warrior broke his favorite tea bowl, and sent it off to China to get it fixed. It came back with an unsightly repair, with staples, which he found completely unacceptable. So he had his craftsman join the broken pieces together, and they used gold and resin. What came of this joinery was stronger and better. The best thing is that the repair created an object of absolute beauty, as it emphasized the breaks, and the cracks and the imperfections. It didn’t try to hide them with glue or staples. If we’re able to embrace those unique issues that we have, embrace the unique challenges, and show off the cracks and the breaks and the imperfections, and not just show them off, but feature them in a way that shows much more beauty than what it was before.
Jon: I read a great quote years ago that you would never expect from the annals of the armed services. but it simply goes like this: “The irony of surrender is that it ends in victory, not defeat”. So when we surrender ourselves to the vulnerabilities, to express our real needs and hurts and wants, that’s the point of our greatest strength. That’s where we find a victory. It’s not defeat. The mask would tell you to stay behind and hide. But if you are able to come out from behind the mask you’re not going to be defeated. It’s victorious when you are able to live fully alive.
Jon: So here’s a statement to think about. It’s simply this: If you live life behind a mask, only the mask is getting love. So many people, if not most people, are only knowing love at the mask level. And by extension, they only know how to give love at the mask level. But God made us and intended us to be relational creatures, right? He designed us to be an authentic relationship with one another. He called on us to love others, but we can’t give away what we don’t have. So as we can come out from behind the mask, as we free ourselves up to receive the love from others, in an authentic way, we are then given that opportunity to extend that love to others. But it takes an action on our part, to remove the mask and allow ourselves to be loved, below the surface.
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