love mission

Fake It Till You Make It

6:00:00 AMChase J. Cloutier

In this post I take a break from my reflections on Hildebrand’s Aesthetics to reflect philosophically on the experience of mission work and growing in love.
It was years ago in Guatemala. Late at night a large group of us was driving into the heart of Guatemala City. In the city a large number of people live on the backstreets in makeshift huts and even amidst garbage heaps. Because of some bad decisions or some bad luck, they found themselves living on the streets with no place to call home. We were driving into the city to offer food and encouragement to these individuals.

As we passed out packages of food and drink, they eagerly accepted them. It was apparent that their hunger for each meal was real: their hearts were filled with so much gratitude. These men and women who were chained in poverty had true joy and gratitude in the midst of their trials. I was in awe of their humility. Encountering these people I was deeply moved and even found myself reaching out to them. I stood there and opened my arms to embrace several of them with a hug.
Is this really happening right now? Am I capable of serving like this? I thought.


On the contrary, at times we must do things we have never done before. We must accomplish some deed concerning which we have no experience. Indeed, human life is an ongoing process of growth and development. In order to become a better person, we must first act like a better person. If you are to become more courageous, you must act courageous in fearful situations. Act like the courageous man in fearful times and eventually you will become courageous yourself. Similarly, in order to be a better soccer player, you have to practice the moves which you need to master.


In order to become a better person, we must first act like a better person.


On the contrary, at times we must do things we have never done before. We must accomplish some deed concerning which we have no experience. Indeed, human life is an ongoing process of growth and development. In order to become a better person, we must first act like a better person. If you are to become more courageous, you must act courageous in fearful situations. Act like the courageous man in fearful times and eventually you will become courageous yourself. Similarly, in order to be a better soccer player, you have to practice the moves which you need to master.


When we arrived at the first location, we got out of our cars and started walking toward a large trash heap on a backstreet. The first thing that struck me was the pungent smell. At first I could hardly stand to breathe the air. Not to mention there was trash everywhere. To announce our presence we all began singing joyful songs, clapping our hands. Slowly but surely about 20 people came out from small dilapidated “houses” (if they could be called that). People live here? I thought. These conditions are horrible. In that moment I could barely believe what I was seeing. These men, women, and children who lived in such destitute poverty were actually happy to see us. They joined in singing the songs, clapping with us and even dancing.
Every human person deserves to be loved and to love.


Prior to that moment I never thought I would be able to minister in that way. I had seen intense poverty on TV ads but never before in person, right in front of me. Each human person is unique and beautiful, having an inherent dignity. Every human person deserves to be loved and to love. Sometimes, however, we doubt whether we are capable of loving others. Especially in situations which we are unaccustomed to, we may think that we could never do this kind of thing for another.


This is where I found myself that night in Guatemala. I had never served those in destitute poverty in this way before. Where did I find the strength to do that which I had never done before? How can one grow in the capability to love?


Some would respond with the saying "fake it till you make it." But what are we to take this to mean? Let us take sports as an example. In sports we are called to go above and beyond our current condition. Say you are training in lacrosse or soccer. You have to practice long and hard in order to develop new skills and to achieve excellence on the field. A common phrase heard during practice is “fake it till you make it.” What is the meaning of this saying?


First of all, “fake it till you make it” does not mean to put on a false exterior. One might think it is more important to appear to be good than to live virtuously in truth. But if you were to join the lacrosse team only planning to appear good at lacrosse, you would be exposed in no time. You cannot achieve excellence in sports or in life simply by putting up a facade. If you did put on a “mask” of superiority and skill, you would not really be “making” anything.


Here a deeper truth is evident in the phrase “fake it till you make it.” You must do that which you wish to become. If you want to “make it” as a virtuous man or woman, you must first do that which the virtuous man or woman would do. This holds for growing in true charity. In order to become a loving person, you must do many small deeds of love.


Love ceaselessly until you become a lover.

In that moment in Guatemala when I overcame my preconceived notions of service and simply loved the person in front of me, I took a small step toward becoming a more loving person. Instead of excusing our behavior by saying that we are uncomfortable with change, we should strive to grow into the most loving people we can possibly be. You have to "fake it till you make it." Play soccer until you become a good soccer player. Love ceaselessly until you become a lover. ---------- Image 1: Deeds of Christian Charity, Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575). 1575. National Museum in Warsaw. (source)
Image 2: A Couple and Two Children Sleeping on a London Bridge, Gustave Dore (1832-1883). 1871. Denver Art Museum. (source)

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