Sunday, August 21, 2005

Self deception

This email from Robert Holmes is very interesting. Particularly the part about remembering peoples' names - something I have difficulty doing. As the article says, "what's my excuse"? ;)

Self Deception
Robert I Holmes

What if I told you that you were suffering from a malady, a sickness, a
disease of some kind. But it did not show signs, or remarkable symptoms to
the sick person. Furthermore, those symptoms were readily visible to anyone
else who looked. You'd feel a little queasy, as I did when I first learned
the lesson contained in this article.

The issue of self deception is very difficult. People do not know they are
suffering from it because they cannot see it in themselves. They are quick
to diagnose someone else who is struggling to see clearly, but ourselves?
Jesus called this the "log in the eye" syndrome.

Because we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we have within our
human frame a hunger for the fruit they ate. We devour fruit born from the
knowledge of good and evil. This fruit bears poor results in our lives. It
creates a kind of myopia, a one-eyed-ness. We view the world in a certain
way, that shifts values toward us, and blame away from us. "It was the woman
you gave me," Adam says, turning the attention to Eve. "Hey, it was the
snake!" she says.

We believe we are better than we really are, and others are worse than they
really are. Bill Hybels says, "We judge ourselves by our intentions and
others by their actions". So true.

An example from real life

Consider a husband and a wife lying in bed with the baby crying. They are
both awake, yet both pretending to be asleep. Each one lies there, thinking
of a good reason why they should not get up. "Doesn't she know I am tired?"
the man says to himself. "I have worked hard all day, she's not even
grateful. Lazy girl". She is thinking, "Doesn't he appreciate how much hard
work motherhood is? I bet he doesn't think it is even real work! I'm tired,
I deserve a break".

This simple example illustrates what the Arbinger Institute has come to call
a "self betrayal" - when you do not follow through on your better instincts.
As a results, we distort our view or paradigm of life to justify ourselves
and condemn others. Anthropologists call it "demonising" others and "angelising"

This is the fruit of knowing good and evil. We have knowledge, and we think
that by it, we are improved. But we rarely stop to examine our assumptions.
Not all knowledge is good knowledge. We think of ourselves as good, and
others as evil. It justifies our treatment of them, for they are something
less than human. We are starting, ever so gradually to "dehumanize" them.

We call this, self deception. In teams and groups it leads to group
deception. This is how Hitler was able to justify destroying the Jews, by
making them less than human. This is why the Evangelical Church in Germany
let Nazi Imperialism evolve. In fact they called Hitler a messiah! This is
why the Afrikaner church largely failed to confront Apartheid, and why the
American church is content with capitalism. What we have is better (or best)
so we think.

It belongs to me!

I was in a leadership meeting for a local church recently. Each member was
asked to be honest about what they saw going on in the church and
leadership. Consider this comment, made by one of the ladies there: "It's
dysfunctional, but hey, at least it's MY dysfunctional!" Crazy as it sounds,
we all laughed, because that's how we feel. "I know it's not working, but at
least it belongs to me!" I can just hear Dr Phil McGraw looking into the
camera and saying, "So how's that workin' for ya?".

Everyone around you knows it's not working, but they cannot help you. You
will not acknowledge your "disease" because of fear, guilt, shame or hurt.
Even those who give lip service to the fact that "we are all sinners", are
rarely found to be repenting. They see the fault in others, but not
themselves. Or if they do repent, they do not go on to bear the fruit of
that repentance. Jesus said it's like, "The blind leading the blind" (Matt.

Why do you want to stay deceived?

The truth is, you built the world you live in. So why would you complain
about it? If you want change. change yourself. But most of us do not change.
We cling to our dysfunction. Why would we cling to being "right" or better,
when it just isn't working? The answer is simple, yet dreadful. We cling to
"it's mine" because of a secondary payoff, or a second class gain.

Consider an example that happens in church after church, and business after
business. A man is being raised up in leadership, and decides he will vie
for control. The team do not think it's time, and ask him to wait. But the
man says, "You don't recognise my gift, I am far better at this than the
present leader". So off he goes, taking a handful of people with him. The
man is choosing (in many cases) to be the captain of a tug-boat, instead of
the second mate on a larger trading vessel. Why? Because of secondary gain.
He is willing to suffer one kind of harm, for another kind of (second class)

· Why do abused women stay with their husbands?
· Why do children stay with their alcoholic mother?
· Why does a sick person not get up for prayer, or to see a doctor?

Because there is a secondary gain.

You're willing to put up with the initial abuse, because of the secondary
gain. Things like money, power, sex, finances, pride, prestige. what's the
pay off for staying deceived? What's the pay off for leaving things as they
are.? Consider the cost though, consider the damage being done to those
around you, and to yourself.

An example

I had a friend who trained as a palliative care nurse. Her work involved
looking after people who were dieing. Her father was very sick, dying of a
disease that could not be cured. Eventually the insurance payments stopped,
and her dad's life was threatened. So she built a hospital room in her
house, and took care of him herself. This appears noble, and her motives
were fine. But somewhere between this fine beginning and the day we met, her
motives had changed.

Dad had become the object of her affection, but not because of his position
as father. Not even because of his frailty. It turned out, the state paid
her quite well to keep him that way. She had every reason to seclude her
life and avoid church. It was so bad by the time I got in on the story that
she defended her father against "witchcraft" and "speaking negatively" so he
would not die. Meanwhile her calling in God was atrophied. The word of the
Lord to her was, "Your father is going to die, prepare your heart to go out
and minister in My name". Instead of embracing this call, she told us to

The secondary gain was worth it (in her mind), and the cost of obedience was
too high. Shortly though, God called her father home, and her little world
fell apart. Her finances struggled. Her identity, held so long as primary
care giver, was corroded. Her call in God needed a kick-start.

Seeing people as people

I mentioned before that we tend to demonise people, and angelise ourselves
when we go ahead and justify our self-betrayals. (When we fail to live up to
the expectation of our heart, we betray ourselves).

The answer lies in seeing people as they really are. As people! We need to
face our circumstances as they really are, and unmask our choices for what
they really hide. Let me ask you,

· Do you see people, or objects? How would you know?
· Do you know people's names?
· Is there a response inside you which says "I need x from this person."?

My father worked on a Naval ship, which had 350 men serving on it. The
Captain could remember every man's name, and even most of their wife's and
children's names. That Captain went on to become an Admiral. Why? Because
people mattered to him. Many people I talk to say, "I just cannot remember
peoples names" as though it were a fault especial to themselves. Here's the
wake up call. The University of California produced a study on the human
brain, which concluded that the right brain could remember 1 million faces,
and the left brain can code four pieces of information against those faces.
So what's your excuse?

Getting out of the trap

You can escape self deception in four easy ways:

· The first key is to acknowledge the fact that we are deceived.
· The second key is to see people as they really are
· The third key is to find out what your secondary gain is
· The fourth key is to ask those around you to help you


"Leadership and Self Deception", The Arbinger Institute
Hybels, Bill. "Who you are When No One is Looking"
McGraw, Phil, Dr. "Getting Real", Audio Series.

Storm-Harvest Ministries

Robert I Holmes and Mario Liu

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