The Weight of Pretending


I’m not quite sure why, but I always thought I was supposed to have all the answers. It didn’t come from an arrogant place of thinking I knew it all; it came from an insecure place of feeling stupid when I was clueless. It branched out to all areas of my life: current events, career, social interactions, motherhood, you name it. I wasn’t completely ignorant. In fact, I graduated college with a high grade point average. It’s just that it’s impossible to know everything; yet I wasn’t confident enough to admit that.

So I kept my secret to myself. I never asked clarifying questions because that would reveal how much I didn’t know. Instead, I developed a few techniques to compensate. If someone else seemed knowledgeable, and I liked how they responded to certain situations, I’d copy them. If a topic came up I knew nothing about, I’d either subtly guide the other person towards filling in the blanks for me, or I’d casually change the subject.

Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. Acts 15:2

In Acts 15, when the question arose whether the Gentiles had to be circumcised according to Mosaic practice or not, Paul and Barnabas didn’t know the answer. What I love, and what inspires me, is that they admitted this to everyone. Then they traveled up to Jerusalem to get the right answer from the apostles. If they could admit what they didn’t know, why couldn’t I?

It takes years to undo a life-long defense mechanism. But God wants what’s best for us, and will lead us to it if we let Him.

He led me to a book club where one woman openly admitted what she didn’t know. She’d ask question after question to learn. Although I presumed people would look down on me if I admitted something I didn’t know, I found I looked up to her for her courage to go in search of the answers. Additionally, I met countless women on the playground over the years who readily admitted they didn’t have a clue about motherhood. This gave me permission to do the same.

However, it’s in guiding my kids that I’ve learned to admit my shortcomings the most, and seek out the answers. I don’t want to give my kids wrong information when they ask a question. More importantly, I don’t want them to carry the weight of pretending that I did for all those years. I learned the hard way how exhausting that is.

Instead, I want to role-model for them that it’s okay to not know, and to go in search of the answers with confidence. As a result, I now routinely ask my mom, friends, Google, and total strangers for the answers I don’t have.

Above all, I go to God. Whether I search something out in His Word, or sit quietly listening for His voice, I’ve found He’s the one Who guides me best. He knows me inside and out, backstory and all. He even knows when I’m asking the wrong question and don’t even know it.

Now I realize we were made to NOT know everything. It causes us to lean on others; which in turn builds community. Above all, it causes us to look to the All-Knowing One, who is always ready and waiting to give us the answers we seek.

Copyright 2018 Claire McGarry


About Author

Claire McGarry is a mom to three great kids and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry that provides evening retreats and monthly groups for moms, service projects for kids, and a weekly mommy-and-me program. A freelance writer for various magazines, Claire also blogs about faith and motherhood at Shifting My Perspective.


  1. Michael T Carrillo on

    Back in my youth I wanted to be a Marine. Reading their literature, I learned that a leader admits to being able to not knowing all the answers and having the desire to seek out them out to be able to teach their troops.

    I have tried to use that lesson throughout my life. It is also a good lesson for catechists. People will ask those questions you just can’t answer. (Some can never be answered.) If that happens, admit you do not know the answer, see if there is one, and be sure to address it later.

    Good reminder.

    • You make a great point, Michael. A leader doesn’t have to know all the answers. In fact, not knowing the answers forces a leader to lean on his troops and empower them. Nothing inspires someone more than being needed. Thanks for adding yet another dimension!

  2. Claire, I have struggled with feeling the need to know everything and to “do it myself” rather than looking to others for advice or wisdom. Two very wise men have helped me get over that. The first is my father who told me to ask lots of questions at school and not to be shy about it. “If you were supposed to know everything already, they wouldn’t call it school.” The other is my husband who even as a young man fresh out of school always asked his parents advice about life choices. He sought out their advice and genuinely listened to them rather than trying to prove to the world that he could stand on his own two feet. I still fall into a bad habit of feeling the weight of knowing more than I do sometimes. But I’m much more comfortable now admitting that I don’t know a lot of things. Great article!

    • You’re very fortunate, Laura, to have such great role models in your life (and I love that one of them is your husband). I do know that I’m much happier now admitting I don’t know it all. I hope you’re experiencing the same kind of freedom and lightness of being. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  3. I was drawn to your article by the title. I felt that way for years! My problem was that I thought everyone knew more about everything and anything than I did. That is one thing I like about getting older. You find out more about life and realize that everyone follows the same path. We learn what we seek. We grow from what we know. I always take comfort in Socrates saying, (or was it Plato?), “I don’t know anything, and I barely know that.” A derivative, I’m sure of something he said in a more profound way. 🤔😉😏

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Susan. The older I get, the more I understand life, others, and myself. I also realize now how damaging the comparison game is. Who cares if someone else knows things that I don’t? That’s how God made us: each with our own unique gifts and knowledge so that we can share both with others. I finally understand the old adage: “Youth is wasted on the young.” I wish I could go back to the old me and say, “Don’t sweat it! Quit wasting energy pretending.” I suppose that’s wisdom, huh?!!!! 🙂

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