Almost seven weeks with our four-year-old grandson, Raphael, was so great. One of the incidents that stand out is Raffi’s penchant for picking at scabs. This child is obsessed with scabs. He was even picking at some on my fingers. You’d think it would hurt for him to pick at his own but he loves to pick at those little owies on his face especially. During our trip, he had a little owie on his chin and just couldn’t resist it.
His mom told him, “Stop picking at that!”
Raffi replied, “I’m not picking at it, I’m just patting it.”
Oh, did we laugh. How easily we can try to defend or justify our behavior. We call wrong behavior other words that don’t sound so bad. Instead of saying, “I’m angry,” we say, “I’m just a little irritated.” We can so easily deceive ourselves.
One of the books I read on our trip was I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life by Gregg A. Ten Elshof (Wm. B. Eerdsman Publishing Co. 2009). Although Mr. Ten Elshof’s book was enlightening and convicting, it was also encouraging. It has motivated me to consider how I could be deceiving myself and I’ve been asking the Lord to open my eyes and understanding to those ways.
One way is through a principle Larry and I call “railroad tracks” in our counseling. We are operating side by side with two opposing beliefs–the rails are side by side. For instance, we might say we trust God, yet we are worried about something. We deceive ourselves into thinking they both can operate at the same time but they are the opposite.
We can say we love someone but we aren’t making choices for their best.
We can say we have the power of the Lord but we avoid taking risks.
We can say we just don’t have enough time to do what we want to do, but we’re frittering our time away on meaningless tasks.
I’ve always remembered the comment of a friend who claimed she didn’t have time to read the Bible. Then one day she said to me with an amazed look on her face, “But I sure find the time to read my decorating magazines.” She hadn’t realized until that moment that she was self-deceived.
Of course, I’m not advocating perfection but we aren’t going to grow in the Lord unless we face those inconsistencies.
Mr. Ten Elshof calls this “attention management.” He writes, “Attention management, then, has two sides. On the one hand, we manage to deceive ourselves by systematically avoiding attention to evidence against those beliefs upon which our felt well-being depends. On the other hand, we direct inordinate critical attention to evidence that opposes our cherished belief if that evidence can’t be avoided or if we think we’ll have to answer for it in public. We give it our attention, it seems, not so much to learn from it as to creatively discount it. Either way, through careful management of attention, we enable ourselves to be deceived over the long haul.” (pg. 39).
That is what was happening to my friend who thought she didn’t have time to read the Bible. She initially avoided attention upon the time it took to read her decorating magazines and focused attention on her cherished belief that she didn’t have time to read the Bible. There were “railroad tracks” in her mind.
How can we stop deceiving ourselves? Obviously, it’s takes the Spirit of God speaking to our hearts. We must pay attention to the benefits that come from obedience and abiding in the Lord. Unfortunately, being blinded to our own wrong beliefs can be very hard to identify, so I think it really takes asking those close to us to point things out. It may be hard to hear but we need that input. I recently asked someone who knows me well if there was anything I needed to be aware of. I must admit I was relieved when she said there wasn’t anything she could think of. I gave her permission to give her “constructive criticism” any time the Lord led.
What we need is a “vacation override.” Since Larry and I will be ministering in Greece soon and we’ll be out of the country for two months, we need to get a three month supply of our medications rather than the allowed one month. I had to call our health insurance and they said I needed a “vacation override.” Their rules say I can only have one month of meds at a time but for my trip they will “override” their rules.
You and I have beliefs that may not be correct. Or we are acting as if we don’t really “believe” one of our so-called “beliefs” (IE. saying we trust God but we are also worried.) We need the Spirit of God to “override” our wrong beliefs so that we can abide and operate in truth.
If you know me well enough to give me some “overriding,” I welcome it. And would you be willing to ask some wise person in your life if there is something that needs “overriding” in your life? What truth that will eliminate self-deception does the Spirit want to speak to us about? Let’s be open.
And stop picking at that scab! Oh, that’s right. You’re just patting it.