At some point in life all of us, no matter our vocation, feel as if we’re frauds.
It often emerges as a battle to be an authentic human being. By authentic, I mean wholehearted, integral, one. And it’s precisely when we feel unable to be ourselves, fully ourselves, in our work, in a relationships, or even in our prayers, that we feel fraudulent.
I often feel as if I’m most myself in the counseling room. It’s there where I can connect to others in a way that ‘public’ life rarely affords. It’s behind the closed doors of my office where pretense and politeness dissipate. The roughest sessions, of course, occur when pretense is confronted head on. Some part of us resists being known, and therefore becoming whole. We all know this inner battle. It’s an everyday battle for even the greatest saints.
People who know me know that I return over and again to the theme of wholeheartedness. I’ve often quoted the poet David Whyte, whose spiritual advisor once told him that the antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness. What he meant, of course, is that no amount of rest or sleep can cure our inner divisions, our extraordinary capacity to show up each day as a caricature of our very selves in order to please, to succeed, or to climb the never-ending ladder to approval. Eventually, we need to face the fraud.
I often think that the most basic message of Jesus is that we are the beloved, loved for who we are and not who we pretend to be. Pharisaism, after all, was an exercise in pretense. For all its obvious theological problems, it was a psychological problem in the end, a problem of fraudulent living as “whitewashed tombs.” The question all of us, and particularly those of us who make our living as ‘the religious’ must ask is, Am I a whitewashed tomb? Am I a fraud?
What Jesus confronts is a religion that desires sacrifice and not mercy. In other words, his chief complaint is reserved for those of us who say and do the right things, but live without integrity, without wholeheartedness, as…frauds. Mercy emerges from the heart that knows its messiness and corruption, and seeks to love those who are just as messy and corrupt. A merciful heart knows no pretense or judgment. It basks in humility. It enjoys its status as the beloved.
Wholehearted living is illusive to most of us, particularly those of us plagued by fear. Coming out of hiding is a difficult thing. It cannot be done by willpower alone. I’m convinced that its only in the context of knowing that we are the Beloved, deeply and intimately, that we can enjoy the freedom to be ourselves. The Cross and Resurrection, in the end, is not simply about some objective transaction. It is the greatest act of Love offered for those of us who wake up each day feeling exhausted, divided, and fraudulent, working tirelessly to fight back that part of us that is convinced that today is the day we’ll be found out for who we are.
Receiving this love may be the hardest thing Christians must do. And its perhaps because it is so hard that we major on the minors, avoiding our greatest internal fear and shame by clinging to agendas that we can control and areas in which we feel some sense of power or certainty. I confess that I do this more than I know. Living in integrity, to be sure, is much, much harder.
And so we wake each day to face the fraud. But, the larger question each of us must face is this: will the fraud, once and for all, receive the love it so desperately longs for?