Our world is full of pretenders, things that put on a show for the benefit of others, or for their own personal benefit. The animal kingdom is full of creatures that feign death, insects that mimic other poisonous insects, reptiles that camouflage so well they become part of the surrounding scenery. They all pretend for survival.
Most humans will pretend too. Chances are, you are one of the pretenders.
Pretending begins in childhood, in a world of make believe, when we pretend to be famous actors or superheroes, play with dolls and pretend to be mommies, play with toy swords and pretend to be pirates. As children, we learn to pretend, to feed the imagination, and it’s magical. It’s innocent.
When does it change? When does pretending become a mental survival mechanism? Pretending not to be hurt, when someone says something ugly? Pretending to be strong when your grandfather just passed away? Pretending to know more than you really do, on that job interview? Pretending to like a gift that you don’t like, not out of any sense of meanness, but to avoid hurting another’s feelings? Don’t you ever feel like such a fraud?
I’ve been done with feeling like a fraud for quite a while now. Pretty much since I gave up drinking several years ago.
I used to get drunk and pretend that my world was okay, when in reality it was falling apart. I used alcohol to help pretend. I used an extra coat of mascara to feel pretty on the outside, when I was feeling ugly on the inside. I pretended myself into a drunken beauty pageant, where the prize was a crown of lies. And I won! There were lies about how I felt, lies about how the world around me didn’t hurt me, lies about who my real friends were. I lived in a make-believe Nay world, an amusement park where I enjoyed lots of visitors. Anybody who pretended to be my friend, pretended to care, could ride on my rollercoaster with me, straight out of reality, and into never-never land. A place where you never, never showed that you were depressed, anxious, angry or hurt. Or gasp…. Bipolar? What the heck is that? Well, it’s a ride that goes up and down and all around, terrifying in it’s intensity, but you just pretend that it’s exciting. You hold on for dear life, sometimes with your eyes squeezed shut, and pretend that it’s fun. It helps to pretend when you’re riding drunk.
I have witnessed so much pretending, that for a long time it was hard to distinguish between real and not real. I went straight from naively believing that everybody who pretended to be my friend, was in fact my friend, to becoming overly cynical and questioning everyone’s motives. Such as: Why is she so nice to me? She must need to borrow money. Or, why does she tell me that how I behaved last night when I started that argument with complete strangers, is funny, that everybody does that? She must not want me to stop drinking, then she will feel bad about herself too.
You can play endless mind games with yourself when you start questioning everyone’s motives and behaviors, when in all honesty, you should be questioning your own.
A hard fact of life is this- you have people who will want you to fail, and who will pretend to be happy for you when you don’t. You will have people who will tell you everything’s okay, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, when the cold hard truth would be much more beneficial. You will have people telling you everything is normal, because they need it to be normal, or you just might leave them behind. There will always be pretenders pretending reality away.
I’ve watched women put on brave, pretend faces when they’re struggling to conceive, pretending that someone’s snide comment about how easy it is for them to get pregnant doesn’t hurt. Pretending everything is normal, because they are behind closed doors giving themselves painful injections, subjecting themselves to countless hormones that wreak havoc on their relationships, their skin, their moods. I’ve watched them as they hide behind fake social media accounts ( I’ve been doing it too), because people are rude, cruel and because they feel embarrassment that their bodies aren’t doing what they were made to do. They don’t want their co-workers, their highschool friends, even sometimes their own family, to know the private hell they are going through, all the while pretending that they’re not.
I’ve seen mean people pretend to be nice, sweet people pretend to be hard, the scared pretend to be brave, and the evil ones pretend to be saints. All while pretending to myself that I was living a good life.
I’ve watched people pretend that God is not always watching, that He can’t see what’s going on, pretending and justifying bad behaviors (I’ve done this too), because it’s easier than asking for help, easier than calling out to God for love and forgiveness, because God just might make you take a good, long, look at yourself, and you won’t like what you see. That all the while He loved you, cherished you, especially when you didn’t feel loveable or worth cherishing. You couldn’t forgive yourself, so you continued to pretend that everything was just fine.
Until you just don’t pretend anymore. You look in the mirror, and you don’t like that fake person looking back at you. The one who fakes being happy, having fun, being normal. You take a deep breath. You look up and you simply say, “Help.” And then, and only then, can the pretending stop.
My friends, and I call you my friends, because you are, not fake friends, or pretend friends, but brothers and sisters in Christ, with me. So, my friends, we don’t have to be pretenders. We don’t have to pretend to be something we are not, because we are all valuable. We do not have to pretend to be unoffended when someone hurts us, we can simply tell them that they hurt us, and if they continue to do so, we can separate ourselves from them. We do not have to hide behind closed doors because we are bipolar, or infertile, or we have a disability, or we struggle with alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, depression, anxiety or anything! We do not have to be ashamed of who we are, what we struggle with, how we may have trouble coping. We don’t have to be afraid to show our true selves, because there are so many of us that are pretending something painful, or something they are ashamed of away, and they want to stop pretending too.
You would be surprised at how many people will be relieved when you stop pretending. You will give courage to others, and you will no longer give people a reason to pretend around you. It’s so extremely liberating to tell people now that I struggled with alcohol. That I struggled with bipolar disorder. That I struggled with my own insecurities, never feeling pretty enough, smart enough, or good enough. That I was one of the best pretenders this world has ever seen. That I struggled to pay my bills when I gambled away my rent money. That I struggled with thoughts of suicide. That now, when I feel secure, when I have totally beat alcohol’s butt, I’ve kicked compulsive gambling’s behind, I have knocked out my insecurities, and I have quit being too ashamed to turn my face back towards God, now when I am finally at peace and happy, I am currently struggling with infertility. I used to be afraid to admit this as well, or to talk about it. Not anymore. I have nothing to gain by hiding it, except more stress and worry. So I no longer hide it. I have quit thinking there is something wrong with me, and have learned that, quite simply, I am a work in progress, that we all are, if we would just quit pretending, and let God do what he started with us. He will perfect us, and He will use all those things we struggle with, that we try to pretend away, to make us beautiful and shining.
Everything I have been through, all the things I used to be so ashamed of, have led me here. To now. To a now that is wonderful. To a place in my life where I realize I don’t know half of what I thought I did, and I long to learn more, a place where I feel happy, and beautiful, and sober. I am content and growing, I am me. I am heading to where God wants me to be, and the journey is so much better without all the pretending.
So quit pretending. Quit being ashamed of your battles. Look at yourself and love what you see, because I promise you, God adores you, and you can never, ever pretend that away, no matter how hard you try.
I will never pretend again. Come join me in a new world, a world full of refreshing and beautiful truth.
Until next time, from a faithful ex-pretender,
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Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”