In the movie, Joker, Joaquin Phoenix brought the infamous nemesis of Batman to life. The movie presented a different side of the Joker than many viewers were used to seeing. Instead of portraying him as a villain who got his kicks from terrorizing the city of Gotham, it shows a man pushed past his limit by bullying and abuse. As someone with a neurological condition from abuse he endured as a child, he was forced to wear a theoretical mask to hide his condition. And was then beat up badly for it. In this portrayal, Gotham actually created the villain.
Here in reality, many of us are wearing actual masks. And behind those masks lie our vulnerabilities too. Some people are at higher risk for coronavirus and are scared to be out in public for the first time, some people are uncomfortable, and some are just plain irritated. Just like it can be easy to point out someone’s vulnerabilities from behind a keyboard, it can also be easier to be unkind from behind a mask.
Most of us aren’t used to going out and either wearing a mask or seeing them in public. It can provoke strong emotions. And oftentimes, 95%ers will lash out in an effort to avoid their emotions or even just because something or someone is different.
Now more than ever, our emotional healthEmotional & Giving Back is at stake. In order to promote social distancing, we’ve been conditioned to see other people as walking, talking, sneezing threats. Anyone could have the virus and it’s hard to look at people without suspicion. We want people to stay 6 feet apart and not sneeze or cough or even breathe in our direction. For the time being, it’s changed our connection with others and forces us to see them differently, especially as much of the world is starting to leave their houses again.
I’ve heard from people who are terrified in grocery stores of others who aren’t keeping their distance or following the new rules. I’ve also heard from people who see masks as a fear mongering technique or a sign of someone being gullible or cowardly. Wherever you stand on these issues, it can be hard to look people in the eye that don’t see things the same way as you because you perceive them as a threat to your well being.
But, my suggestion is, do it anyway. Look people in the eye and extend kindness. Humanize the person behind the mask. In order to grow and protect our own emotional health, we need to remember that the people around us aren’t walking petri dishes; they are our friends and neighbors. You can hold your own beliefs while respecting the beliefs of others. And you can still say hello while maintaining your distance. Don’t forget to look at people and connect. It will fill up your emotional health core more than you know.
And you never know, the person you connect with might just be on the edge and losing hope themselves. Your kindness could make all the difference.