Are You Faking It?

“When we start to recognize our failure to change ourselves, it can be tempting to ‘fake it till you make it’.”

By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC

By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC 

One of the hardest things to hear as a Christian is that a person rejected Christianity because the Christians they knew were so pretentious and fake. We usually start telling them that not all Christians are this way …but the sad thing is that often times it appears to be true.

Even in our own churches we can start to feel that everyone is putting on a “presentational” self by reporting only the victories of the day or never mentioning that they need prayer for things like overeating, pornography addiction, and not speaking kindly to their spouse or children. But let’s be honest –these actions and a host of others happen in Christian homes every day.

So, where are Christians getting off track?

Over the years I’ve sat with sincere Christians who have drifted from the joy, honesty, and freedom they knew as young believers and live more in shame, striving, and silent despair that their faith is too weak to see real change in the areas that matter most.

I found three common misunderstandings that lead Christians down the road to becoming fake.

First, Christians misunderstand that their growth is a task to complete vs. a process to be in.

If you start to see behaviors or attitudes in your life that need changing as a “task” to correct on your to-do list, such as blowing up at your spouse or a friend or taking shortcuts at work, it automatically invites performance and legalism.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that God’s will is our sanctification, which is the process of progressively becoming aware of and surrendering the parts of ourselves that are not God honoring. 

This is a constant and ongoing process because our sin nature still resides within us. So, we should not be shocked when we see layer upon layer of selfish motives, unawareness and outright defiance in our attitudes and behaviors.

With the presence of our sin nature, the process of growth is not a straight line going upward. Rather it takes into account our regression and stumbling which realistically resembles a staircase -an upward and downward experience.

Chuck Swindoll captured our reality of growth in his book titled, “Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back,” where he describes setbacks as part of our maturing.

In other words, a true Christian will never look perfect so there is no reason to fake that you are!

Second, Christians misunderstand that they need to do the work of changing or sanctification on their own.

This has been a misconception since Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia saying, ”Oh foolish Galatians! Are you who were begun by the Spirit now to be perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)

Christians will quickly discover that all their self-effort to change themselves is not only exhausting, it’s impossible! When we start to recognize our failure to change ourselves, it can be tempting to “fake it till you make it”.  And that is exactly what you will look like –fake. 

The real solution is seen in our coming to faith.

In the same way God moved in us to do that which we could not do –save ourselves, His Spirit now living in us does what we cannot do –sanctify ourselves.

Lastly, so many Christians misunderstand that they need to hide their ugly, broken parts from the world for fear of criticism or rejection.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, their first instinct was to hide, for they anticipated God’s judgment for their disobedience. Sewing fig leaves was a picture of creating a false self to hide the real self, a self that no longer felt acceptable.

However, hiding who we really are is just another way of being fake.

How can we as Christians resist the daily invitation to be fake?

…By anchoring our hearts in three critical truths that are always present in God’s sanctification/growth process:

Truth #1:  Love is always the motivator for change –not fear. 

The rules of performance and fear of a consequence are the least effective motivators of true change. Love and acceptance of who we are, warts and all, is the greatest motivator to stay in the longstanding process of growth.

God has loved us with a perfect and everlasting love that will never require performance to remain in it.

Hence – there is no fear in being the real me. I don’t have to fake it to be someone I am not.

Truth #2:  My responsibility is simply to become aware, own my sin, and yield my will to His.

Understanding that my sinful nature lurks around every corner helps keep me from arrogance and denial. I will always need to confess and surrender my constant tendency to do life my way.

No matter how many years I have walked with Christ, I know that I can succumb in an instance and serve sin instead of God. Therefore, I scan my heart daily, looking for the insidious ways sin can disguise itself in my life while trusting in God’s Spirit to point it out and lead me to greater dependence on Him.  

Facing the truth of my sin nature keeps me honest –and honest people don’t need to fake it.

Truth #3:  Forgiveness is the water in the growth process.

Because sin is in our very DNA, we expect regression in our daily walk. So just like our salvation was completely dependent on God’s forgiveness, our daily growth is also propelled by forgiveness. His forgiveness is the daily remedy to getting tripped up by the snares of sin.

A person who breathes in forgiveness after exhaling their sin is a person who lives truly free. They are free from shame, despair, self-loathing and the fear of rejection.

Free people have no need to fake it, as they don’t fear exposure or the truth of who they really are.

By embracing God’s design for your growth while holding fast to the truths of love, responsibility, and forgiveness you will look anything but fake.

And when you do find yourself tempted to hop on the fake-train more often than not, Counseling can help uncover the roots of that tendency to stray from our real self and set you on a trajectory to authentic living and freedom in Christ.