Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I hate that expression. I only use it when I’m discouraged. I only hear it from people who are depressed. When you don’t feel like obeying or being happy or maintaining belief, just fake it ’til you make it. Put on a mask so that other people think you are kind or joyful or faithful. That doesn’t ever solve my problems. And it makes you wonder why Jesus wasted all that time talking about the inner man if He just wanted us to fake it. No, I don’t think the man who called Himself “The Truth” wants His disciples to put on an act.

On the other hand, there are times when our minds, our bodies or our circumstances simply can’t reach a place of peace or joy. Pretending isn’t a good solution, and giving in to rage, terror or hopelessness isn’t either. Thank God there is another way of being.

God gave us each a mind (the thinking part of the brain), a heart (the seat of emotions) and a will (for choices and actions). Various translations of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30 express this trinity: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. God created each part of the human spirit to seek Him and to reflect His image in the world. God Himself provides what we need to keep those parts operational. He feeds us truth for our minds, His great love for our hearts and a wise and measured discipline for our wills (both in the limits He gives us and in the strength He offers us to stay within those limits). It is surprising how often you find all three of these concepts addressed in short passages of Scripture, for example Psalm 119:41-44 or Phil 4:7-9.

Now, for the bad news. All three of these parts are fallen. Our minds have the tendency to believe lies, our hearts have a tendency to fear, and our will has a tendency toward rebellion. Scripture tells us that our idols speak deceit (Zech. 10:2), our hearts do not fear God alone (Is. 8:12, 13), and we are inclined toward evil in our habits and choices (Gen. 6:5).

It is God’s grace that when one part fails, we have the others to pull us upward. There are Scriptural examples for each. We are to be transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). But sometimes it is the heart which leads with love (Ruth 1:16). And our will must be conformed to the image of Christ, even when we don’t really want to go there (James 1:22). In the case of those who talk about faking it, I think they are actually saying their mind or their will is leading them toward God while their heart feels far from Him. The will, acting upon truth rather than feelings, is in no way a pretense − any more than the widow’s mite is a pretense (her will acted from feelings of worship and compassion rather than logic).

In God’s original plan, heart, mind and will were perfectly aligned in the image of our Maker. There is no longer perfection or harmony between souls or inside of them, but just as we have the community of God to help us when we are weak, so we have three means of approaching God from within. It is important for us to use whatever godly impulse we have in our heart, mind or will to reach for the empowering Spirit who enables us to approach the throne of grace from many angles. That struggle is very human, very valuable and very real.

This essay was first posted here in June of 2012.