Self-Deception is the Ultimate Deception
There is no deception like self-deception. I guess that’s because no one is as happily gullible to my fabrications as I am.
Sometimes I get myself to believe I am doing all I can to impact a situation when in reality I am doing all I WANT to be doing.
Or that I am really a generous and thoughtful person because of one generous and thoughtful act when the majority of my week was spent selfishly.
Or that I don’t really spend THAT much time on social media or other time-wasters.
The problem with deceptions is they don’t facilitate growth. They just comfortably pad our cell, furnishing it with a candle, a blanket, and perhaps some crackers.
I don’t want to remain imprisoned by self-deception. Thinking that I am a better disciple of Christ than I actually am does nothing to transform me into that disciple.
Recognizing reality brings clarity of vision. Clarity of vision brings hope for change.
Beware the Self-Focus Trap
This point in the journey to shake off self-deception is like an ostrich pulling her head out of the sand, only to realize that she is standing on a high, narrow pass with a sharp drop on either side. A fall in either direction will land her in the trap of Too Much Focus on Self: either to float adrift on the endless sea of self-improvement on one side or to crash onto the rocks of self-loathing (”I’m way worse off than I even realized!”) on the other.
Either one sidetracks from the high, narrow road that leads to maturity.
Enter God’s Word. Amazing how timeless it is – ancient words written in the first century A.D. that still nail it today.
James 1:22-25 (NIV) admonishes us with this:
“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”
Once I got a haircut that was significantly different from how I wore my hair previously. When I woke up the next morning and stumbled into the bathroom to brush my teeth, I was shocked to be greeted by my image in the mirror – I had forgotten the new haircut.
That is what James says we do when we have our morning quiet time, gloss over our Scripture reading, put down our Bibles, and go on about our day, unchanged.
We find ourselves reacting out of the flesh when a driver cuts us off on the freeway…wait, what? Me? Prideful?
We hear ourselves snap at our spouse or children…me?? Impatient? Rude? I wouldn’t have said that if HE hadn’t _________!
Surely that wasn’t me! I’m just tired, having a bad day, coming down with a cold, inhaled too much air pollution, or ran out of vitamins!
I know, because it takes one to know one.
When I gloss over verses like, “Be completely humble and gentle”, nod my head wisely, think I have that one in the bag, and then walk out of my room and act harshly or pridefully, I am the victim of my own deception.
These deceptions add up to a picture in the mirror of a different kind of disciple than the one I actually am.
The antidote lies in the adverb. Well, and in the verb. 🙂
James says we must “look intently” into the perfect law that gives freedom AND do what it says.
Our house flooded last year. The insurance guy came out and poked around, inside and out, inspecting the degree of damage and making a few drainage suggestions.
When the insurance company emailed the finished claim to us with the settlement amount, you can know that I didn’t just give it a cursory glance, oblivious to small details such as decimal point placement and such. I looked INTENTLY at that document. I read it 5 times. Then I called Bill and read it to him. When he came home from work, I made him read it intently to verify my interpretation. And we didn’t end it there – say, “That was an exciting read!” and toss the papers in the recycle bin and forget about it. No! We (okay, I) checked the mailbox about 6 times per day until that check arrived, and when it came, we applied it to our lives with the help of a pen and our local banking institution!
What if we read God’s Word that way?
James says that if we do – if we read it purposefully, intently, and honestly – AND apply what we read to our lives, we will be blessed in what we do.
That sounds like a way better end result than continuing on in our own deception, to our own demise.
The point of an honest read of God’s Word and an honest view of our own maturity is not to cause us to focus endlessly on ourselves (either negatively or positively). It is to partner with God in our own transformation and to avoid the pit of hypocrisy. Authentic believers, humbled by the grace they need and receive from God, are attractive to those needing grace.
When we recognize our failure to live up to God’s Word, we can ask Him for the grace to become more like Jesus.
Recognizing my failure is useful, but agonizing over it doesn’t fix me.
We can only safely navigate that high, narrow pass when our gaze is firmly fixed on the Glorious One. He alone can lead us onward, past the dangers lurking on either side.
Filling our vision with the beauty of our Risen Lord and looking intently into His life-giving Word will transform us into His likeness.
I don’t want to deceive myself and miss being transformed because I think I already have been. If you feel the same way, will you pray with me?
“Gracious, loving Father, open our eyes to the mirror of your Word. Help us obtain clarity of vision and to then fill our vision with your beauty and holiness. We don’t want to stay stuck where we are, believing we are farther along our journey than we actually are. Transform us daily by your Word and cause us to be fully pleasing to You in every way. Help us, by our humble and authentic pursuit of You, to draw others to Your grace and truth. We ask this for Your glory. Amen.”
With faith, hope, and love,
P.S. – for another interesting read on the many times Scripture warns us about believing lies, and the perils of self-deception, you might like this article from www.biblestudytools.com.