Cardinal sin nine - being fake and phoney
The mission of UU A Way Of Life is to improve spiritual health, reduce immoral and sinful behavior, and work across systems for positive societal change. This article is another in a series of articles on reducing immoral and sinful behavior. “Sinful” in the context of the UU A Way Of Life mission statement is defined as mistaken. The mission statement could read, “reducing immoral and mistaken behavior” but the mistakes being referred to are ones that cause spiritual injury and so we use the word “sinful.”.
The ninth component of spiritual health is authenticity. What is the opposite of authenticity? It is being phoney and fake..Phoney and fake is creating, developing, and projecting a false self. It is pretentiousness. People often come to believe that their false self is real. They are so immersed in their inauthenticity that they lose touch with who they really are. They have forgotten the ground of their being. They think they are the authors of their own existence. This mistake often leads to alienation and despair.
When a person enhances and/or defends their ego, they create a hell on earth. When we pray in the great Christian prayer, the Our Father, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” we are expressing an intention not to continue on the path of the ego but to redirect ourselves on the path of the Spirit.
The biggest sins of phoniness and fakeness is the worship of false idols. We believe that money, power, status, prestige, romantic relationships, the acquisition of things material and immaterial will make us happy. We say things like, “I could be happy if only I won the lottery.” “I could be happy if only I could get that job, take that trip, buy that house, marry that person.” None of this, of course, is true, but we come to believe it especially in our capitalistic, materialistic society which conditions us constantly with advertisements, social messaging, and peer pressure (keeping up with the Jones) to seek these things by competing with others for what are believed to be scarce resources for happiness.
Holden Caulfiend, in J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of adolescent angst, Catcher In The Rye, called this social conditioning “the big lie.”
The three major existential questions which we all contend with throughout our lives are: Why was I born? What is the purpose of my life? What happens when I die? We can attempt to answer these questions pursuing the path of the ego or the path of the Spirit. In Unitarian Universalism people covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. This search, if it is to be successful, takes us into the authentic, the genuine, the real, and away from the fake, the phoney, the counterfeit, the pseudo.
To achieve an authentic, genuine, honest life of integrity, we must be willing to regularly examine our lives and consciences. This is best done daily with further reviews weekly, monthly, and annually. The major questions are “Have I been true to myself?” “Am I becoming the person that I believe deep down in my heart, God created me to become?” “Am I doing with my life what I believe deep down in my heart, God is calling me to do?” It helps to do these reviews and questions with a trusted other. It can be a life partner, a good friend, a spiritual director, a therapist, a group of committed participants.
We can put our faith in the ways and promises of the world of the ego, or in discerning what we believe is Life’s will for us in the world of the Spirit. We have multiple opportunities to make this choice. When we choose to discern Life’s will for us, we have kept the faith.