What deadens Christianity today is that we take the short cut to the life Jesus modeled. We try very hard to look like good people: we put on the cloak of humility or forgiveness or love on the outside, but our inner emotional states don’t match. Jesus taught an inner transformation that shone on the outside of the person, but where the inside and the outside agree.
It’s a principle of psychology that what we deny in ourselves has to come out somewhere. We can deny that we’re prejudiced or that we exclude certain people. We can keep sorrow at bay. We can act as if we are not afraid. We can think we are loving to others when in actuality we are manipulating or loving them in a conditional way. What we deny in ourselves we project onto others: we object to their actions, but not to our own; we laugh at their mistakes, but don’t see our own; we blame others where we are responsible. We’re denying our own stuff, then objecting to it in others.
There are unintended consequences for denying emotions in ourselves. If we deny we are angry, we also suppress our joy. When we deny our sorrow, we live on the surface of our lives. If we try to be perfect, following all the rules to a T, we are denying what makes us who we are. With all these denials we are wearing blinders about our own behavior.
This is not what Jesus taught. He taught us to put ourselves in the hands of God and let the Spirit transform us so that we are the same on the inside as we are on the outside. “Follow me,” he said many times in the Gospels. Paul wrote about putting on the mind of Christ, thinking like God thinks, Jesus railed against the hypocrites—people who say one thing and do the other. We fall into this trap so easily, because it is easier to pretend to be what he modeled than to actually be like him.