My first big break on the road to winning the imaginary Pulitzer that sits on my mantle came the day my Daily Illini editor tapped me to cover a presidential candidate’s wife’s press conference. Her name was Hillary Clinton.
I grabbed my notepad, cruised across the University of Illinois campus on my snazzy red Honda Elite, flashed my press badge and took a seat next to a reporter from CNN. After a round of sophisticated questions ranging on the economy to the Middle East, the university media staffer reminded Mrs. Clinton that – wink, wink – a representative from the university’s student newspaper was also present.
God and Hillary and CNN all stared at me. I almost looked over my shoulder too, until I realized I was the little pet reporter where all the condescension pointed. Equal parts humiliated, unprepared, and starstruck, I blurted out a sophomoric tumble of words about being able to vote for the first time in that year’s election.
“That’s great,” the future First Lady said. And just like that, the media staffer thanked everyone, the press conference was over, and Hillary was gone. CNN was gone. Everyone was gone. I HAD ONE JOB.
I watched two black cars drive away while I kicked the tire on my stupid scooter. I could have asked something intelligent and student newspaper-ish, like how would Gov. Clinton handle the crippling rise in tuition costs at state universities. But nooooo. I laid an egg.
Ever been there? Ever wondered if people are going to find out you’re a fraud? True, in my case, they actually did find out I was a fraud. But maybe you’re a less obvious fraud than me. You curate a sensational social media feed and you stay one step ahead of the jig. Your plan is to fake it ’til you make it.
I really disliked that phrase until I had coffee this morning with one of my best friends. “Stop being so literal. I say that all the time to commission my kids to do hard things,” she said.
“But are your kids faking it or are they being truly courageous? When our marriages are thin, are we ‘faking it ’til we make it’ or are we just doing the un-fun work of keeping the ‘for worse’ part of our vows? Have I faked it 200 times in my writing career, or have I just tried 200 new things?”
“I don’t think we’re using this expression the same way,” she said, recommending that me and my overcooked logic consider the decaf. She was right, but not about the decaf. It’s just the fake part that gets me.
Research continues to mount about our social media shenanigans, and it’s eye-opening. According to a British study by smartphone maker HTC, 6 percent of social media users borrowed objects to include in their social posts and then passed them off as their own. Half of people – half – admit to posting images specifically to cause jealousy among friends and family. Three in four admit to making their lives seem more exciting on social media.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Barna Group found that 70 percent of women surveyed in 2015 felt a negative emotion after spending time on a social media site.
Um, you think?
On balance, one of my friends posted an adorable anniversary pic recently with this caption: “Not pictured: The crying 16-month hold, the naked 3 year old and the hollering 5 year old hanging precariously from the jungle gym. Also not pictured, the fight (my husband) and I got into last night.” In my book she wins Facebook.
Yet, for many of us the struggle is real because the real is a struggle. We fashion beautiful, #nofilter Facebook feeds for the world. But in our actual world? Our marriages, our dreams, and our hearts are breaking. Of course, I’m not suggesting we tweet our marital troubles or Snap when we snap. But I do wonder why we try so hard to look so good.
Let’s face it. Social media shines a spotlight on our lives. And we’re the ones aiming the light. I love what Lisa TerKeurst wrote in her book, Uninvited: “The spotlight never fixes our insecurities. It only magnifies what we thought popularity would cover up.”
If all the likes and retweets and repins are perpetuating a show, we will only feel more pressure to perform. We will specialize in the “fake it,” but we will never make it. Not that way. We might put up a front with others for a season. We might fool ourselves into thinking God is buying it too. But eventually, we can’t figure out how to close up that space. So we stop trying.
Here’s the very good news.
That was never our job. Jesus closed up that space once and for all. He gives us a new name, a new purpose, a new peace, a new identity. What you grew up with is not what you have to become. The patterns you learned aren’t the patterns you have to teach. The person who hurt you is not the person who gets to define you.
In Christ, you don’t have to hustle for worth because He is your worth. There’s no jig that isn’t already up with Him. There’s nothing you’ve done He didn’t already die for.
We can stop the exhausting work of faking our goodness and start the freeing work of imitating His goodness. If we do that, I Thessalonians 1:6-7 says we’ll become a model for other believers.
I spent most of my teens and 20s and 30s – including the aforementioned Clinton incident – afraid to be me. Just plain old take-it-or-leave-it me. If you struggle with this, I don’t want you to lose any more time. And it’s not because I want you to be more like me. It’s because I want you to be more like you. We can’t be good at everything. If we were we wouldn’t need each other.
And if we were we wouldn’t trust the One who makes it so we don’t have to fake it.