We all have an image of ourselves that we want to project to other people. We want our friends, our family, and even total strangers to think of us in a certain way. In some cases, this is what drives us to be nice, to smile instead of yell, or to put others ahead of ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. Because if we don’t, people will think we’re AWFUL.
And, Christians have an especially strong need to be seen as good. We want people to look at us and think that we strive to be holy, that we love God, and that we care about others. Sometimes we make a whole life out of being the way we’re “supposed” to be in front of a certain crowd of people and being the way we really are behind closed doors. Living life that way is exhausting. To spend more than half of life pretending to be something you’re not is just such a waste of time and energy.
At this point in most blog posts, the writer would now tell you to forget being a phony and just be yourself. Stop trying to hide your true self from the world! he would write. If they don’t like you for who you are, who needs them? she would shout from behind her computer. But, I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not going to give you the kind of advice that the world loves. The kind that slowly wounds your spirit until you are nothing that even remotely resembles who you want to be. Deciding that who you REALLY are, the inferior you, is who you are doomed to be, deciding that the you who is double-minded and weak in conviction is just who you were made to be is a total load of nonsense.
You see, that’s the easy way out.
Might I advise you, as the former President and still sometimes visiting member of the Phony Christian Committee? Here is the greatest piece of wisdom that I have ever come across. Are you ready?
Just become who you want the rest of us to think you are.
Gosh, it sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But, this is an overwhelmingly difficult task. Think of what it means. It means being the same person no matter where you are. And, I’m not talking about that inferior version of yourself that the world wants you to settle for. No. I’m talking about being holy, loving, and godly, whether you’re with a room full of deacons or in a quiet room with your best friend. This should be a major goal of every Christian’s life. The Holy Spirit is continually driving us toward holiness, but much more so when we are reading the Bible regularly, praying, and looking for ways to become more like Christ. I think it’s impossible to read God’s word if you are a Christian and not be changed and affected by it. So, if you feel you’re not growing, if you feel you’re at a standstill in the Christian life, if you feel like you’re the biggest Christian phony on the block, start reading, sister! Start praying, brother! Don’t give up.
Is this way of life something that comes naturally every day? The non-phony, striving-for-holiness life? Nope. Some days it feels like you really do have to fake it til you make it. But, if you keep at it, you will find that you aren’t having to “act” anymore. You will just be.
I remember the day that I understood, as clearly as if God had written it across my forehead, that I didn’t love people. It shocked me. Because, after all, I had been ACTING like I loved people. Wasn’t that the same thing? And it took Him years, and it took loving people being good examples to me, and it took the Holy Spirit shaking me to my core before I finally came to a place where it wasn’t just an act. I really was beginning to care about and love and want to invest in people. Does this mean that I just adore every person I see and want to be best friends? Of course not, but I am so grateful that God took the time with me to painfully draw that phoniness out of me in so many different ways and replace it with genuine care and love.
That’s only one way that God has worked on me in recent years, and boy does He have SO much work left to do. But, it took me waking up to the truth that I wasn’t who I claimed to be. And, I knew with God’s help I didn’t have to settle for the non-loving version of myself. I was tired of the act. Don’t you get tired of it, too?
I have so far to go on my rocky road to non-phony living. But, it is worth it. It is so worth it to just get to be who you are IN CHRIST, without worrying about who hears you or what they think about you. There’s still plenty I say and do that I wouldn’t want broadcast on a billboard anywhere, but God isn’t finished. And, the exhausting part is over. The phony part. The act. Maybe Jesus had the phony life in mind when He said, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Striving for holiness isn’t easy, but it is restful. The pressure’s off. Be who you were made to be in Him.
He will give you the strength to give up the act and the power to change. And He will give you rest.