When we reveal the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden, we are able to serve others in a bigger way. Often, it’s part of ourselves that we try the hardest to hide is the key that unlocks our greatest service.
What parts of yourself do you keep hidden? What aspects of your identity or personality are you afraid to reveal, out of fear of how others might respond? And what would it take for you to be willing to unmask and celebrate the truth of who you are?
Beneath the surface, this holiday is about celebrating the truth of who you are.
In a nice change of pace from virtually all other holidays, the Purim story is not about God or the patriarchy. God isn’t mentioned, and the protagonist in the Purim story is a woman.
The Transformation of Queen Esther
In brief, Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in the 4th century BCE in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran) from the decree of Haman, the anti-semitic prime minister who plotted to destroy all the Jewish people after feeling snubbed by Mordechai, the Jewish leader.
The heroine of the Purim story is Queen Esther, a young Jewish woman described as beautiful and obedient. Esther entered a beauty pageant without revealing her nationality or true identity. In fact, her real name was Hadassah. Esther means “hidden.”
The Persian king selected Esther to be his wife, and she became the new Queen.
When Esther learned of Haman’s plans to kill the Jews, she was initially reluctant to intercede. But Queen Esther eventually shed her identity of obedience and stepped into a bigger role as a woman of action. She resolved to do what she could to help her people, even if it meant risking her own life.
Esther went to the king’s court unsummoned, an action punishable by death. The king welcomed her in, and she invited the king and Haman to a lavish feast. She eventually revealed to the king her Jewish identity.
Upon learning of Esther’s true identity, the king would not allow Haman’s plot to proceed. The Jews were spared the fate of death, and Haman was hanged on the gallows he built to kill Mordechai (karma!).
The enemy is real, but it’s not who we think it is
On the surface, Purim is a celebration of escape from the fate imposed by Haman, an external enemy.
Many Jewish holidays revolve around this theme, and the big showmanship and big miracles that occurred when the Jews faced such battles against the external enemies. Passover gives us Moses vs Pharaoh, plagues, and the splitting of the sea. Hanukkah gives us the miracle of oil lasting for eight days.
The heroics involved in Purim are more subtle — but no less heroic. Queen Esther was a warrior who fought the most difficult battle of all: the internal battle.
Identity and Visibility
Like Queen Esther, each of us has a part of our identity that we hesitate to reveal. Consciously or unconsciously, we fear that revealing this part of ourselves will cause us harm. We perceive this aspect of our identity as a threat to our livelihood, if not our lives. This part may not fit with the role that others have chosen for us or that we have defined for ourselves. Perhaps others have told us to keep this aspect of ourselves hidden.
We may harbor shame about this aspect of ourselves, or we may just believe that there’s no probative value in sharing this piece.
Fear and doubt vs trust and belief
The voices that tell you to stay in hiding are trying to protect you. Their motivations are pure: removing your mask and revealing who you are does carry risk.
By revealing her Jewish identity, Queen Esther risked death. She risked her status as the Queen.
If you reveal that part of your identity that you are hiding, people may view you as less qualified for your role. They may believe this even though nothing about you is different from what they knew before. This, of course, is ridiculous and irrational. But human beings aren’t rational.
Even if the King accepted Queen Esther once she unmasked herself, she had no guarantee that coming forward would save the Jewish people. It was possible that she might risk her position and status for no benefit.
Maybe you don’t want to take that risk. Your status is too important. Protecting what you have is too important.
The choice is yours
You can choose to remain safe by hiding the parts of yourself that don’t fit with the roles you play in life. But while you remain safe underneath your mask, cloaked in the costume of your chosen role, your people are facing the gallows.
Often, the part of our identity that we try the hardest to hide is the key that unlocks our greatest service. Indeed, it’s that part of our identity that draws in the people who most need what we can offer.
The only way to help your tribe to trust your calling to be in service, own your identity and reveal your truth.
Queen Esther chose trust.
What do you choose?