I had a ministry friend that I met about 10 years ago message me this week. She was feeling down and isolated. Her hubby is working a lot and she misses him. They just have a lot going on. She was looking for advice about what to do and for someone to just listen to her. I reassured her that everything she was feeling was normal and that if she needed to take some time off, that would be very healthy. I told her that sometimes, the worst thing you can do is walk in to church and fake it. People will see right through it. When she heard me say “fake it,” she cried because her pastors encourage their team to put on a fake smile. They’re told to say that they’re “fine” when someone in the church asks how they are doing. “Fake it till you make it” is their motto, as it in in many churches. I got done with our conversation and opened my email. There was a message that said, “How to fake it till you make it.” The timing of it just seemed like a God thing to me, so I asked my friend’s permission to write about her experience this week.
I often play devil’s advocate with my hubby because I can see both sides of ((most)) issues. I think that faking it till you make it is one of those issues where there are two sides. I give a couple of examples of how faking it can be positive and/or helpful, but will spend a majority of this post talking about the dangers of faking it.
The POSITIVES of faking it till you make it:
I believe that God made us emotional people. He gave us feelings. When we are stressed or fatigued, those emotions are warning signs that something is off. When we experience them, we should listen and rest. However, there are days when you have to suck it up and show up anyway. My feelings are indicators- that is all. They do not get to run my life. If I am sad and don’t want to get out of bed, but my children are asking me for their breakfast- I don’t have the luxury of sleeping in a few more minutes. I am responsible for them and they depend on me. If I can’t handle the stress at my job, do I get to not show up? Nope. If I am going through personal stuff, do I get to spew my struggles onto our church people? Absolutely not.
I listen to a podcast called Trim Healthy Mama and they recently talked about this. They are proponents of “faking it till you make it” because your body and your mind will eventually catch up with your will. If you put the right fuel in your body, it will eventually catch up and get healthy. If you put your mind on things above, your heaviness will eventually lift. “You will act yourself into feeling it,” as my pastor used to say. And I agree. To a point.
The negatives of faking it till you make it:
Yes, you have to show up anyway. Yes, those in ministry can’t share everything they are going through with members of their church. However, we HAVE to have people we can share with. It is unrealistic and unhealthy for people to be expected to not have any issues or anyone to share them with. In fact, it is unbiblical (see scriptures below).
My serious fear is that teaching people to fake it till they make it, will further perpetuate the issues of depression and suicide in our culture. If someone is not ok, the last thing they need to do is slap a pretty mask on and fake it alone. They could be facing a chemical or hormone imbalance. They may have recently gone through a traumatic experience. They may need some serious help.
Social media hasn’t helped this either. We post one perfect moment from our day and it looks like we’ve got it all together. There was a time when I was not ok, and I spent a year off of social media because I couldn’t handle the pressure. I had to get away from wanting people to see my life and “like” it for me when I desperately didn’t like it myself.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with,” (James 5:15 MSG). We need people we can share our “stuff” with. It heals us to do so.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). We don’t have to be perfect. In fact, we can share our struggles because people will see God through them.
“It would be wrong for the eye to say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you,’ and equally wrong if the head said to the foot, ‘I don’t need you.’ He has done this intentionally so that every member would look after the others with mutual concern, and so that there will be no division in the body. In that way, whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honored, everyone rejoices, (1 Corinthians 12:21, 25-26 TPT, emphasis mine). This scripture fascinates me. I cut out a few verses so that it wouldn’t be too long, but please go back and read them. We actually need each other. God designed us that way. When you are struggling, I struggle too because we are a part of the same body.
Just in case you needed a few more scriptures…
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT).
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ,” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).
“It takes a grinding wheel to sharpen a blade, and so one person sharpens the character of another,” (Proverbs 27:17 TPT).
All of that to say: the idea that we should hide our flaws, do life alone, not share our struggles, and wear perfect masks is wrong. Especially for those of us in ministry. Who you share with, when, and where you share are important details. Sunday morning isn’t the time to have a melt down. It is the time to serve the people that God has trusted us with. But Monday is a different story! 😉
The reality is that we are going to struggle. We live in a fallen world and we will face trouble (John 16:33). Here is what I suggest we do when we are struggling:
- Cry to out God. He is our true source of comfort. King David struggled. A LOT. And he took his struggles to God. Most of the Psalms are his deep cries for help. Lamentations and Jeremiah are the same thing: cries for help. Jesus even cried out to God in the middle of His struggle on the cross. Take your pain to God first.
- Ask God to show you who you can share hard things with. Because I want to be approachable and relatable, I am sometimes an overshare-er. It comes with being a 2 on the Enneagram. I want you to know me so that you love me. That gets me into trouble and isn’t healthy. There is wisdom in being selective about who you share with. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces,” (Matthew 7:6 NIV). When you think you have found that safe person, trust God, and step out. There is nothing like hearing someone say, “I have been there and God saw me through it. You will make it!”
- Get Counseling. Listen- you are not above needing professional help and neither am I am. Counseling has been so helpful for our family. And if you need medication to help level things out, that’s okay. Get the help you need.
- Be patient with people who are different than you. I am totally nerding out over the Enneagram right now. What I am learning is that there are three different kinds of people: feeling, thinking, and doing dominant. Those differences are MAJOR in our motivations, in the way we process and handle information, and in the way that we deal with hard things. Someone who is emotional and people-focused (like me) lives for this stuff. If you tell me that I am your safe person to talk to and you need my help- I am a very happy lady! God made me that way and that sets my soul on fire! However, someone who is more aggressive and doing-focused doesn’t understand that need and that is ok. God wired them and they aren’t “less than” because they are different. They still need people, even though it is harder for them to see it. So their response will look differently than mine. The same is true for those who are thinking-dominant. They might journal and process in their mind for a long time before they ever talk to someone, and that’s great too. One is not better than the other.
Faking it till you make it can put a lot of pressure on us that we aren’t meant to carry. God is so much more concerned with WHO you are and HOW you are than WHAT you are producing for Him. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:31 NIV). The truth is we don’t have to be perfect – Jesus is; We don’t have to have it all together – Jesus holds it all together; We don’t have to perform for His love – He loved us before we were even in our mother’s womb.
Faking it till you make it can be helpful and harmful. If it helps you push yourself past current limitations, then go for it! I’m am going to tell myself that I’m not in love with sugary snow cones until it becomes a reality! Ha! But if it keeps you from allowing yourself to be known (flaws and all) by your safe community, then let’s stop hiding.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”