One fascinating observation I noticed when working as a new intern therapist going to Utah State’s Marriage & Family Therapy program in 1996-1998, as well as when I worked at LDS Family Services in 1999-2004 in San Diego was this: while getting to speak to fellow church members behind closed doors in therapy in a confidential setting, I learned what REALLY is going on in their lives. Not the perky good member image given on Sundays or at church activities. Not the wholesome seeming individual who makes comments in gospel doctrine and Elder’s quorum class. I was able to learn about and differentiate the good member façade commonly seen from the darker elements of a person’s existence. We regularly hear at church that fellow members “aren’t perfect” and that we need to “not expect perfection”. Nevertheless when members regularly look, sound, and act perfect-ish at church , it still often gives that impression of fellow member perfection. So when members finally experience the darker side of how many members really can be over time, there is often a disillusionment as well as anger and resentment, sometimes even leading to inactivity at church or even apostasy from the church.
Why Fellow Members Often Act Fake:
So, why do many fellow members try to act so perfect at church and around others? Here are a few reasons that make sense to me:
*They feel they are expected to look, sound, and act perfect, simply because that is what others have shown. We learn from the role modeling of others acting fake to then act fake ourselves. In our church subculture, we often observe and even size up other respected members in a ward for cues on how we should strive to be. So, when we observe a respected member seeming perfect, we can quickly learn that that is how we should try to look, sound, and act as well. The problem is that we all still have real issues, challenges, sins, and problems that still truly make up far short of perfect. Hence, the fakeness and phoniness.
*We feel seeming perfect on the outside is a part of striving for perfection, which is our goal. So in a sense we are commanded to be somewhat fake and phony.
We learn Christ say in Matthew 5:43-48 the following: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
In other words, treating our enemies with love, blessing them, doing good to them, and praying for them is how the Lord commands us to be, and that that is a part of being perfect, which we are also commanded to be. Doesn’t that kind of…require some fakeness and phoniness to pull off? It is natural and understandable to have some amount of tension and resentment if not outright anger towards those who mistreat us. Nevertheless, we are commanded to act well towards them. So in a sense we are commanded to be somewhat fake and phony towards people we don’t care for and make the best of things. We are also commanded to be peacemakers as well. That role also can require some level of acting fake and phony to pull off. We learn Christ say, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”—Matthew 5:9. Working to make peace with someone who is mistreating us usually requires some level of swallowing our real feelings and “putting on a good face” to smooth things out with others and get along with them. So again, acting fake and phony has a place.
*It is often required already in the dating world. Both in and out of the church, some level of acting fake and phony is required to try to attract and keep a new dating relationship. Instead of this being called a person acting fake or phony, it is usually described as “putting your best foot forward”, “just trying to impress others”, or “just trying to show your best side”. It is pretty tough to attract and keep another in a relationship without selling yourself to them. So this involves looking, sounding and acting as well as possible to some degree in the beginning. So, at least somewhat fake and phony.
The three reasons explained in this article give a strong theory to why our fellow church members often act fake and phony: role modeling, the commandment to be perfect/treat everyone well, and the requirement every single has to sell themselves relationally. So rather than getting upset at this reality, understand it and, if you really want to know they truth about someone, observe them—especially under stress, challenge, or duress. For more ideas on decoding what a person is really like below to façade can be found in my earlier related articles at: www.ldsdimension.com/articles/ask-dr-g-lds-dating-q-a-25/
Understand and work with the church subculture, especially the subculture for singles. I am just the messenger on this topic of members acting fake or phony. Just understand it, decode it, and deal with it accordingly because you and I can’t make it go away. And this can be helpful to find a keep a future relationship, something that is what we ideally strive for. Because “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|2021-05-24||Randy Gilchrist||Psychological health|
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to email@example.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).