How are you at showing your true self; hurts and all? In 1939, artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger crafted a story about a young boy who witnessed a terrible tragedy. After leaving the theater with his parents, his parents were robbed and murdered right in front of him. The boy, forever changed by the tragedy, dedicated his life to ensure no one else felt his pain.
In my opinion, the tragedy of Bruce Wayne isn’t the loss of his parents. The tragedy lies in his broken heart not being allowed to heal. Putting on a costume, swinging from the rooftops, and becoming the walking apocalypse to the criminal underworld is easier than dealing with his heartbreak and becoming whole.
Our Heart is Under the Mask
John Eldridge wrote in his book, Waking The Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive:
“Somehow we have overlooked the fact this treasure called the heart can also be broken, has been broken, and now lies in pieces down under the surface. When it comes to habits we cannot quit or patterns we cannot stop, anger that flies out of nowhere, fears we cannot overcome, or weaknesses we hate to admit–much of what troubles us comes out of the broken places in our hearts crying out for relief.”
Sure, you’ve never put on a mask and cape and beat someone up (except for that one time, but they had it coming). Yet, how do we deal with our internal pain? Do we take it out on other people? On things? On ourselves?
The interesting thing is, Bruce Wayne isn’t the caped crusader all the time. To the public, he is a billionaire playboy and philanthropist. So the question becomes, is that the mask, or is the dark knight the mask?
You can think of several people right now who you interact with (or are related to) that annoy, frustrate, and spankin’ get on your ever loving last nerves. Yet I bet if you knew the context of why he/she acts the way they do, you could relate to them better. They have on their costume, cape, and a utility belt of gadgets to protect themselves. That is what we see and respond to. So do we write them off as a pain in the neck? Or get our hands dirty by listening and attempting to care?
Is Bruce Wayne Batman, or is Batman Bruce Wayne?
I’ve been asking myself that question of late- is the introvert I present the mask, or the extrovert only very few see the mask? Am I batmanning my relationships with people because I’m hiding the broken places inside? It is so easy to mask up and distance our real selves while doing good (after all, Bruce is a hero).
Another interesting thing about Bruce Wayne is he chooses to have several crime fighters around him: The Justice League, Robin, Nightwing, Huntress, Oracle, etc. Yet, he purposefully separates himself because that is how he dealt with his pain as a child. He doesn’t ask for help and has a consummate vibe of self-reliance around him. This protected him when he was younger, but hindered him as an adult in his interactions with people who tried to connect with him (Clark Kent, Diana Prince, etc.). It’s easier to hide when there are a lot of people around you.
One of my mentors and friends, Gaye Marston, shared with me the following (in reference to me being an introvert/quiet): “What was once your security when you were a child has become your handicap as an adult.” Being quiet is how I dealt with pain as a child, and has become a curse as an adult. It is easier for me to go all batman, the caped crusader of justice, than to take off the costume and be me.
Do you find it easier to batman yourself or to acknowledge the “mess” and unmask? Is it easier to be an emotional vigilante than to start the journey to being whole?
[photo by wave-rider ]