Fake It Till You Make It?

Since your feelings are indicators, they let you know what your thinking is and what your actions may be. Actions can help your feelings change. But if you are acting differently than you feel, does that mean you just "Fake it till you make it?"

Feelings and Behavior

No doubt, thinking belongs at the beginning, so should acting come second or third? You can realize significant benefits when you act even when your emotions oppose the action and strengthen your action when emotions are engaged. Which is it – acting then feeling or feeling then acting?

What is the connection between feelings and behavior? Do your feelings impact your behavior? Does your behavior impact your feelings?

The answer is yes; both happen. It is easy to see that feelings drive behaviors, but the opposite is also true. For example, researchers have consistently found that people behaving in ways that conflict with their feelings or attitude will change their feelings to be consistent with their behavior. That is why people who suffer the trauma of having an amputation are asked to help other patients as soon as possible.

Act the Way You Want to Feel

Order or consistency is essential for life and your body. Research shows that if you feel depressed, you can act differently than your feelings to impact the depressed feelings. Consider the following:

Isaiah 58:10 (NKJV) – If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.

When you serve others, your darkness turns to light because you stop focusing on yourself. God wants you to help others which models His behavior instead of “flashing our ME.”

You can experiment with yourself to prove whether actions can alter feelings with a simple technique. Try it the next time you are feeling sad. Three steps – Face, Body, Breathe/Speak. Start with your face. Ask yourself, “How would I like to feel right now?” If you answer “sad,” then this three-step technique may not help, but if you answer “happy,” “joyful,” “peaceful,” or other similar words, then put a smile or at least a pleasant expression on your face. Even if you answered “sad,” you can still try this.

Next, look at your body. Most likely, your body reflects sadness – slumped shoulders, head down, moving slowly. Change your body to be in a position that demonstrates your chosen emotion. At least, sit or stand up straight, shoulders back, chin up – good posture. Start moving with a little more energy.

Finally, think about your breathing and speech. Take some deep breaths and speak with energy and articulation if you need to talk. You will soon see the critical element that makes this technique work.

Not Being Fake

If you do those three steps, you put your body out of sync with your emotions. So, your feelings are sad, but your body is “happy,” which leaves you in what researchers call dissonance – emotions and actions are not equal. You have two options – change your feelings to be like your body or your body to be like your emotions. If you let your body remain “happy,” you will experience the reality of emotions being responders. They are responding to your actions and, more importantly, to your thinking, which drives your actions.

“But that is just being fake!” That could be the case, but if you decide joy is more critical than being sad or depressed, it is not fake – it is being true to your values or priorities. Being depressed is not what you value, the actual “fake” item. This technique can help you to be authentic.

A Common Pattern for Life Change

Good thinking helps us eliminate the lousy part of a common pattern everyone experiences. This pattern occurs over and over, with the outcome of each occurrence leading either to a life that glorifies God or further self-absorption.

The common pattern has three simple statements:

“I was living this way. Then one day, THIS happened. Now I live my life differently.”

On closer inspection of many life changes, you will see more detail which sounds like this:

“I was living this way.  Then THIS happened… it happened again and again and again… Then it struck me! I got it! Now, I live my life differently.”

That is the standard form of every testimony you hear at church or any program that helps people change. There are multiple examples in the Bible of this pattern. One of the more known examples would be King David in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. There you can read the story of David and Bathsheba.

A shortened version of the story is David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She later told him she was pregnant. Since her husband, Uriah, was away at war, David arranged a time for Uriah to come home. That would give time for husband and wife to be together, covering up David’s sin. But the plan did not work, so David ordered Uriah to the front of the battle, where he was killed. David then took Bathsheba to be his wife to cover up the sin.

David did not confess his sin, so God sent Nathan to confront him by telling him a story of a rich man stealing a poor man’s sheep. That aroused David’s anger to say, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!” Then Nathan stated, “You are the man!” which awakened David to say, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

David could tell us the story with the common pattern.

“I was living a life that displeased God – adultery, murder, and unconfessed sin. I made bad choices allowing my sinful thoughts to lead me rather than doing what was right. I knew it was wrong but did not want to admit it, and I made it worse by trying to cover up my adultery with murder. Then one day, Nathan confronted me with a story that showed how real my sin was. I confessed it to the Lord and experienced the consequences of my sin with my son's death. Now I focus on walking with the Lord, and when I sin, confess it as soon as I know it.”

God called David “…a man after His own heart…”  How could that be when God knew that David would commit such horrible sins? I believe it was because David believed and trusted God first, and when he sinned, he confessed it. That is a person desiring to please God – a man after God’s heart.

Options for Change

Since the pattern is so true, the middle part, “THIS happened,” is the critical element. The THIS in David’s story was when Nathan confronted him, but that is just one way THIS is communicated.

Consider three examples from my life.

Former Belief
Current Belief
  • Spiritual
  • Career
  • Social
  • Going to heaven is all that is important
  • Climb the corporate ladder
  • I am mostly self-sufficient
  • I will be judged. Eternal rewards are real
  • Work to your strengths
  • Relationships are critical

I believed in God’s desire to conform me to His image, but despite that, I did not understand the connection of this life to living in the kingdom. I thought that going to heaven was all that was important. Now because of understanding Scripture better, my thinking changed. While going to heaven is especially important, it is not the end of the story. I will also be judged, and eternal rewards (or loss of rewards) are real. This life is an apprenticeship for being a servant king in God’s Kingdom.

Another former belief about work and career was climbing the corporate ladder was a fundamental goal for a person in an organization. Now that changed to work to your strengths so that you are most effective for the organization.

Yet another change I have had is social: I used to believe in self-sufficiency, but now I believe that relationships are critical.

Take a minute to think about your life. Consider the categories in the table above, think about what you believe now, and reflect on what you used to believe.

What happened that moved you to change? What THIS happened?

One thing most likely occurred, you adopted different thinking. Here is a great principle to consider.

If people are changed, they are changed largely because their thinking has changed.

Notice how that statement fits the scripture below.

Acts 19:18-20 (NKJV) – And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

Before they knew Christ, they thought magic was the answer. Now that they believe in Christ, they burned an absolute fortune in books about magic.

Why? Their thinking had changed! Their common pattern could have been, "My life depended on whether I had the right magic or potion to make life better. Now that I believe in Christ, I have burned by magic books and believe He is the answer.” Their life was radically changed, so much that they burned what they used to consider a treasure.

Change can follow three options: get better, stay the same, or get worse. So, a “Change Table” would look like this:

Believe a truth
Believe another truth
Believe the same truth
Believe a lie
Believe a lie
Believe a truth
Believe the same lie
Believe another lie

What is obvious about the BETTER column?

Right, it involves believing TRUTH!

Truth is imperative for a “better” life. When lives change for the better, truth is involved somewhere. “Better” in this context does not mean winning the lottery. While that can be better for some if they have the correct thinking about stewardship, but it creates a nightmare for most. So, “better” is defined as a life that becomes more closely aligned with God’s prescription.

Truth is always required to become aligned with God. Consider the definition of truth: “the quality of being true, genuine, actual, or factual; a proven or verified principle or statement; fact.”

And, let me introduce another word to consider – REALITY. The definition of reality is “in actual fact, the quality or state of being real.”

While those definitions are not identical, they show remarkable similarities. Believing truth means seeing what is actual, genuine, and factual. Being reality is seeing objectively and factually. Lies are real, but the content of the lie leads to what is not true and factual. Truth can be difficult to accept, and reality is often an acquired taste, but both are worth seeking despite any unpleasantness they may create.

By the way, the phrase “perception is reality” is invalid. Reality does not get changed because we perceive it differently. The phrase is correct if used from the view that people think their perception is reality, but reality does not care about our perception; it is what it is.

Reality and Change

We can build on the earlier statement with truth and reality in mind.

We seldom change for the better unless we accept and act on truth or reality.

What reality/truth are you not applying to your life? Are you willing to ask others for their input? Consider the following as a starter kit to reflect on changes in your life.

  • Health/exercise/food/weight
  • Financial stewardship/saving/spending/investing
  • Prayer life/Bible study

If you took one item and saw the truth or reality about it, you would have a great chance to make a change. Assume it is your spending. You are not treating God’s money as His. You are acting like it is yours (I was living this way). Truth or reality is accepted, or you ignore it and act like the money is yours. Your life is better, the same, or worse (Now I live this way). See the pattern?

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