Since the Coronavirus took over the world, there has been a lot of debate over whether people should wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus. Increasingly, medical experts and government officials encourage people to wear masks when they are in indoor public spaces, like grocery stores, or when they are in crowded outdoor public spaces.
While face masks are increasingly becoming a common sight in public, there are many people who still refuse to wear face masks. Granted, some folks have breathing issues, or other medical issues, that make it unsafe for them to wear a mask. It is completely understandable why folks in these situations choose not to wear one.
Other people, however, are medically able to wear a mask, but they choose not to do so for a lot of different reasons. Some suggest that face masks are for people who are afraid or paranoid or who are being duped by the medical community. I have also heard other people suggest that wearing face masks demonstrates a lack of faith in God or a propensity to letting one’s self be pushed around by the government.
So, given that some people argue things like this, I would like to tell you five reasons I wear a face mask that might surprise you.
One: I wear a face mask because I am a critical thinker
If you study critical thinking or logical fallacies much, you may be aware that there is a fallacy called Bandwagon. People commit this fallacy when they argue that something should be done or believed because everyone does it or believes it. Of course, we know that just because everyone does or believes something doesn’t mean it is right either to do or believe. This is what your mom was getting at when she asked you, “If all of your friends jumped off a building, would you, too?”
Snob Appeal is a related fallacy that illustrates an opposite thinking problem. Someone who argues with Snob Appeal suggest that a belief or action is correct because the smart or cool or enlightened people believe or do it.
In my decision to wear a mask, I avoid both the Bandwagon and Snob Appeal fallacy. I don’t wear a mask just because everyone is doing it. Nor do I refuse to wear masks because I think I belong to some elite group of people who are “above masks”.
Rather, I wear a mask for four simple reasons based on critical thinking: 1) I am not an expert on infectious diseases. 2) I know that experts on infectious diseases want to prevent us from getting sick. 3) Most experts recommend currently that we wear a mask to minimize spreading the virus. 4) It is wise to trust the professional opinion of people who know more than I do on this issue, or other issues of major import.
Two: I am a realistic optimist
The pandemic has been hard on all of us. Nevertheless, I am realistically optimistic that we will overcome the obstacles we face and get through them together. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking. We have encountered obstacles like this before in the past, and we have figured out solutions to them.
One of the most important parts of realistic optimism is taking practical, constructive steps. During a national crisis like a pandemic, it is essential that both individuals and communities take such steps. Wearing a face mask is definitely a practical, constructive step. It may seem small, but small acts multiplied through thousands of people tend to snowball and create a large, positive net effect.
So, I wear a mask, not because I am pessimistic or dominated by doom-and-gloom thinking but because I am a realistic optimist and believe in the effectiveness of small, constructive steps.
Three: I believe in freedom
Some people believe that freedom is the ability to do whatever you want. That is an impoverished understanding of freedom. Freedom is the ability to do the moral and loving thing. If you examine the underlying principles of any major moral and ethical system and trying to live by these principles, you will realize that the moral and ethical thing to do right now is to wear a face mask (unless you have a medical situation that prevents you from doing so). You can read more about moral and ethical systems and the principles that guide them here.
In addition, it is always excellent, good, and beautiful to do the loving thing. The loving thing is the action that expresses kindness, compassion, and respect to yourself and others. Wearing a mask certainly does this.
The more we practice doing the ethical and loving thing, the easier it is and the more habitual it is, and the more free we are. Wearing face masks is a really easy way to practice doing the moral and loving thing, and so it helps us be free in the way I have defined it above.
Four: I have faith.
I am a Christian, and I have faith in God, but I still wear a face mask. I absolutely believe God can protect and strengthen us. I also believe that God protects and strengthens us in very simple and practical ways. For instance, God gave us a brain and the ability to think clearly, reasonably, and wisely. Using our God-given brain and its God-given functions is one of the best way to express faith in God (e.g. we have faith in the tools God gave us), and it is one of the simplest and clearest ways to allow God to work in our lives.
Five: I practice resilience
Resilience is our ability to rise to challenges and bounce back from adversity. The more resilient people are, the better they can thrive in all sorts of situations. The good news is that resilience is a character trait that people can cultivate. One of the ways we cultivate resilience is by practicing resilience in hard times.
One of the things human beings struggle with the most is change. We want things to stay the same. So when the world is topsy-turvy and there is a lot of change all of a sudden, we often develop the sudden urge to shut down, run away, or entrench ourselves in the way things used to be, refusing to change.
However, when we refuse to change, we become like a brittle tree that can no longer bend with the wind. A tree like that often snaps eventually from the pressure. A resilient tree is one that can bend, but not break, with the wind of change.
How do human beings bend without breaking? We recognize that change is hard. We show compassion to our self and our painful feelings during change. We realize that change is scary but is not fatal. We take small steps to practice change and adapt our self to it. We keep practicing. We extend grace when we mess up. We keep practicing.
To be honest, I don’t really like wearing masks. They often make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t always like the way they look.
But I have been practicing wearing masks and showing compassion to myself when it is hard. I have experimented with a lot of different masks, and I have found some masks from Old Navy that work well for me.
You can find them here.
As much as I can, I turn wearing masks into a game, and I find masks that feel funny and playful and joyful to me.
This can help to negate the painful feelings I sometimes experience when I wear masks.
Sometimes I practice wearing masks at home, even though I don’t have to, so that I can become used to it.
In short, here is why I wear masks:
1) Covid is serious, and it can make you really, really sick long-term and mess up your life.
2) I care about you, and I don’t want to make you sick unintentionally.
3) I love taking constructive, practical steps to help solve problems, even if they are small steps.
Please consider wearing a mask, too. I don’t want to get Covid either. I really don’t. I have a lot to write, teach, and draw about.
Update: This fall, I taught for an entire semester, on campus, while wearing a face mask. The college I teach at is very strict about all faculty and students wearing a mask and about social distancing. My students were 100% compliant about wearing a facemask the whole semester.
It is really, really hard lecturing in a facemask, but I did, and I am so glad that I did. While a lot of other colleges and universities were not able to have students on campus (or they had to send them home mid-campus), our campus was able to complete the entire semester in-person. We had relatively few cases of COVID on campus, and the college followed strict quarantine protocols (in addition to social distancing and mask-wearing protocols).
In addition to not catching COVID, I also avoided catching my annual fall cold.
 And I realize that the experts could change their mind on the effectiveness of masks in the future. That’s fine. I also understand right now that they have good reasons to believe that masks reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Following current medical advice, especially when the advice is as simple as “wear a face mask”, is entirely reasonable and prudent, even if the advice does change in the future. In fact, wearing a face mask regularly will help both medical and political leaders determine what does and does not work with the Coronavirus.
 We act morally when we act according to a principle that aims for some kind of higher good both for ourselves and others. So, for example, if we look at classic moral and ethical systems, here are their rules for acting:
Aristotle and Virtue Ethics: Act according to the mean of virtues–virtues like courage, magnanimity, generosity, etc. (Those were classical ethics). Christian ethics are ones like faith, hope, and love.
Kant and Deontological Ethics: Act in a way that you could will everyone universally to act. Don’t make yourself the exception to the rule.
Mill and Utilitarian Ethics: Act to maximize the most quality pleasure and minimize pain for the most people.
If one were to follow any (or a combination) of these moral or ethical systems, it would be hard to make a coherent argument in favor of not wearing masks.