I remember when I was a teenager I went on several church mission trips to Mexico.
Those trips were awesome for all sorts of great reasons, and they were also awesome for one very shallow reason: On one afternoon during each trip we would go shopping. And shopping in the parts of Mexico we were going to meant one thing: cheap fake Oakley sunglasses.
I’m not going to say buying these sunglasses was the highlight of the trip, but I’m also not going to say it wasn’t pretty close. The opportunity to look like I had fancy sunglasses was quite enticing to this materialistic teenager who was growing up in a wealthy suburb where it seemed like everyone had fancy stuff.
And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing knockoff sunglasses, it turns out wearing them has some unintended side effects.
Researchers at Duke, North Carolina and Harvard have studied the impact of “fake” accessorizing on our ethical decisions. In one study that I read about in John Ortberg’s new book Soul Keeping, researchers gave a group of women expensive Chloé sunglasses, but half of them were told the glasses were actually knockoffs.
Keep in mind, they were only told, the glasses were knockoffs.
Even though the women were randomly assigned to the “real” group or the “knockoff” group, the knockoff group was more than twice as likely to cheat or steal in a subsequent study than the women who were told they were wearing the real deal.
Merely being told they were wearing fake sunglasses made these women more than twice as likely to behave unethically.
In another study people who thought they were wearing the fakes were found to be more cynical in their attitudes towards others.
We fake it in life to bolster our ego. But the result is, we feel like phonies and become more deceptive and cynical with others – so exquisitely sensitive is the need of the soul to be whole.
Wearing fake sunglasses is one thing, and even given what these researchers have told us, it’s relatively harmless (and a heck of a lot cheaper!).
But I wonder if there are other seemingly minor ways we can project a false image of who we are that creates a bigger impact.
I live in the real world, and as such I sometimes feel the need to look the part when I’m anything but “the part”. I feel the occasional pressure to act like I’ve got things together when I don’t. I feel the temptation to put on the proverbial fake sunglasses and pretend like they’re the real deal.
But it just doesn’t work.
Walking through life in this way impacts us far more deeply than we realize. While we might be trying to fake it to fool others, it turns out we are not as good at fooling ourselves as we think we are.
And, what’s worse, dishonesty in the little things leads to dishonesty in places we never wanted it to be.
So its better for our hearts, our soul, and our blood pressure to be real. We’re better off if we accept the consequences of our “realness” and pursue deep-level change where it’s needed instead of pretending to be something we’re not.