The Peril of Pretending

If you haven't seen my podcast about dealing with difficult families, go to my Media page on my web-site now. The following post addresses the issue of "pretending" that I speak about briefly on the podcast.

Growing up in my family was the same. We went to church Sunday after Sunday looking like the "normal" Christian family while the foundations at home were being destroyed. My parents didn't set out to hurt or abuse us--they just did what they'd done most of their lives. They lived with secrets and shame that were never exposed to the light and the underground web of denial and pretense bore fruit in our family life.

I remember a specific incident as a teenager. When I was 16, I came home from school one day to find out from my mother that my stepfather was having an affair. I was beside myself. Not because I was shocked by his behavior, but because my mother was incapable or unwilling to address this. She confided in me, but forbade me to say anything to anyone. Now I was ensnared by the peril of pretending. I've found that once we become entangled in the perilous web of pretending, it is difficult to break free. There are usually lies upon lies or as presented "shades of the truth" that have existed for decades and no one dare try to break free because each member has in some way been complicit in the facade that exists.

The peril of pretending is that once you start, it's hard to stop. Do you find yourself caught in a similar web? Is it easier to "go with the flow" rather than deal with what is true? Did you know that you can break through this pattern today by choosing to deal with what is true in your own life? I'm not urging you to "blow the whistle" on anyone in your family or circle of friends. I'm saying that you are responsible for yourself. Is there something you've been pretending about for the sake of your image? your family? your Christian witness?

It's time to come clean. Jesus is waiting. He always dealt harshly with the "posers" of His day, but He had an abundance of grace for those who humbly came before Him, admitting who they really are.


B-E-A-T the Holiday Blues Recap

How were your holidays this year? Did you leave your family festivities feeling warm and loved? Or did you feel a bit isolated and ignored? Take a moment right now and think about some of the events of this holiday season. What were the factors that made a difference in your experience? Is there anything you would do differently?

In my last post, I talked about how a simple kitchen timer changed my relationship with my biological father completely! For years I tried to earn his love and approval but it seemed as though I always fell short. That is, until I realized that I was expecting something he could not give and it set me up for continual disappointment. I had to go through a season of grieving the loss of having an earthly father who loved me and was proud of me. In the midst of that process, I came to a deeper understanding of Father God's unfailing love for me--"what an indescribable gift!"

Maybe you're like me--you've been disappointed time after time and each holiday brings with it another wave of dashed hopes. Take heart! You can begin today to implement one or all of the tools we discussed:

Break the Rules!: Do something different from the norm. Change things up and see what happens.

Employ Safeguards: Set a time frame for visiting the family and stick to it; use a signal to escape a difficult situation; or take a time-out to re-group and re-evaluate what God would have you do

Adjust Your Expectations: Don't get caught up in either idealizing or catastrophizing. Have realistic expectations.

Take the Initiative: Realize that change begins with you! Be creative and find ways to preserve relationships in the midst of healthy boundaries.


Let me know what you tried this year! Share with me what worked and what you're still working on! Remember, change happens slowly--even in us. Don't become discouraged if you take one step forward and then the next holiday take two steps backward! It happens to all of us! Just continue on the path and modify when necessary. You'll find that it can actually bring joy and laughter to difficult situations and relationships when you take the focus off others and initiate change in collaboration with God's Holy Spirit! I love the following verse in John 5:17 because it reminds me that I'm not alone--that God is always working in me and for me!