As a young sister I was taught that “act as if” is a spiritual principle for growing in virtue. This strategy works on the natural level. For example, if you dread speaking to a group, imagine that you are an accomplished speaker full of confidence. Ask yourself what the signs of a good speakers are. Picture yourself demonstrating them: speaking without your voice or knees shaking, smiling, using pauses and gestures. Then go out and act as if you are a great speaker. The mind is a powerful tool. It can shape our actions. Before you know it, what you imagined will become reality. (It works the opposite way too. If you picture yourself failing, chances are you will.) So how can we use this strategy to bolster our spiritual life?
Suppose you want to control your anger. Think of a situation that makes you see red. Visualize yourself as acting and speaking as though it doesn’t bother you. Tell yourself that you can deal with it calmly. Then when the situation arises, act as if you aren’t angry at all. Little by little you will find that your thoughts have influenced you so that you actually aren’t angry. Take another example. Maybe there is a person you don’t like. Ask yourself what it would be like to love him or her. How would you excuse the person’s faults? What would you do to show that you care about him or her? Imagine yourself being loving toward that person. Then act as if you do love them. The acting will gradually become a reality.
Students are quick to notice when a teacher is insecure. When teaching catechists, I recommend that they “act as if” and visualize themselves full of confidence. From day one in teaching a new class, they should act as if they have everything under control, including their nerves. If they act as if they are a strong, knowledgeable teacher, soon it won’t be an act.
When have you experienced the power of acting as if?