Acting the Part

Sarah Arthur

Hypocrite is not a word we like to hear, especially when it’s aimed at us; but it hasn’t always been a negative term. The word hypocrisy traces its roots form ancient Greek hupokrisis, which referered to acting a theatrical part. It was a term from the stage. Professional actors engaged in hupokrisis. They put on another face, if you will. Their goal was to be such a good hypocrite, to be so convincing that their real identity disappeared for a while. Whey the play was over, they took off their pretend face and became themselves again.

Totally Convincing

Actors today do the same thing. Some are more convincing than others, but the great actors are able to set aside their own personality and take on the personality of the character they are portraying. For example, for the movie Miss Potter, which tells the story of British author Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit fame), the Texan-born actress Renée Zellweger perfected a British accent. If she didn’t get it right, British moviegoers would have spotted the fake. What’s interesting is that Renée didn’t just speak with a British accent when the camera was rolling. She used the accent the entire time she was on set. In order to play Miss Potter convincingly, she practiced the role even when the audience wasn’t watching.

Her approach made for good acting. But what if she had never dropped the accent, even when the filming was over? What if she had come home and spoken to her family and friends with a British accent? Everyone would have begun to worry whether she could distinguish her real personality from the character she was playing.

Becoming the Part

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In fact, many actors struggle to separate themselves from the parts they play. The same may be true for us in life and faith. We know we shouldn’t be hypocritical, acting one way in one setting and a completely different way in another. What we often don’t realize is that eventually we become what we pretend to be.

When we pretend to be something we’re not, over time we lose sight of our real self. This can be good and bad. On the negative side, we can become so involved in bad friendships or destructive behaviors that eventually we can no longer see the person God originally created us to be. Our true face is eventually lost. On the positive side, once we have committed our lives to Christ, the old sinful self is precisely the face we want to lose. The Apostle Paul writes, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The longer we practice the new role God gives us in Jesus Christ, the more like Jesus we become. Eventually, that new role becomes our true identity. Our old self has been transformed.

You can only act a part for so long before the role takes over your life. The question is this: Will it be a role that helps you become more like Jesus or one that distorts your true self?



As you get dressed in the morning, consider your clothing as part of the role you play. What does your clothing say about the person you want to be? Is the person you dress the real you, or are you playacting? What, if anything, does your clothing indicate about your faith? If you wanted to be more like Jesus today, what would you wear?

Sarah Arthur is the author of numerous books, including The One Year Coffee with God (Tyndale, January 2012). She is a youth ministry volunteer at Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing, Michigan, where her husband, Tom, is pastor.

–from devozine (July/August 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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