My old software company created software for the publishing industry. During a visit with one of our Christian publishers, an executive asked my advice about how he should counsel an employee who was pregnant out of wedlock. Just as he asked me this question, the woman herself burst into his office in tears.
The week before, she had confided her secret (and her shame) to this executive. She had told him in confidence, but she had just discovered that he had asked a dozen people at the company for their wisdom in counseling her, just as he was asking me. Soon everybody knew.
Now her secret was talked about openly in the lunch hall and meeting rooms. All because this one executive couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and all under the guise of his “seeking wisdom.”
After the woman left the office, the executive hastened to defend himself, “I just hate secrets. I feel I am very much like Nathaniel in Scripture, ‘A man in whom there is no deceit’” (John 1:47).
My executive friend said he hated deceit, but his numerous self-justifications for disclosing another person’s embarrassment felt that he was overflowing with deceit. Self-deceit that is.
Last week I read this quote by Blaise Pascale:
It is truly an evil to be full of faults; but it is a greater evil to be full of them and unwilling to recognize them, since that is to add the further fault of a voluntary delusion.
We May Be Deluded Too
When the Word War II allies liberated their first concentration camp, they forced the local city inhabitants to dig graves for the numerous stacks of unburied dead. The next day the mayor and his wife hanged themselves, leaving a note with these words:
We didn’t know!
But we knew.
It is a terrible truth that various evils still lurk inside our flesh, but it is more terrible—and perhaps more evil— when we refuse to acknowledge those evils that lurk within, when we are unwilling to admit our flaws, or when we compound our faults with delusions of decency.
Numerous studies have shown that eighty percent of men think that they are in the “Top 20 Percent” of men with excellent social skills.
And those “Top 20 Percent” (mostly delusional) men do almost no work to improve their grace, kindness, and listening. Because they (mistakenly) believe they are charming. Their biggest problem isn’t their lack of social skills—which could be improved if addressed—their primary problem is their utter fantasy of personal-greatness.
Self-deceit is not the biggest sin we commit, but it is the reason we commit our biggest sins. We are always the last to see our own self-absorption.
While eighty percent of men think they are socially skilled, the same studies show that the remaining twenty percent are depressed. They are depressed because they know their inadequacy. But I reserve my greatest hopes for these depressed twenty percenters. There is a chance they will cry out for help.
God always hears the cry of the needy. He always attends to the humble.
There are two kinds of people: the children of God who know they are sinners, and the children of the liar who think themselves good. Which will we be? The Pharisee or the tax collector?
The single greatest thing we can do this year is to acknowledge our faults, sinfulness, and even the evil that lurks within, and then call on God. We aren’t as good as we tell ourselves. Why not admit to ourselves (and others) the truth?
A couple weeks ago, I stopped at a party store to pick up some supplies for New Year’s Eve. I gave my credit card to the cashier and said, “I don’t need a receipt. Just tell me when I’m good.” She paused, stared at me, and retorted,
“Tell you when you’re good?” That’s gonna be a long wait.
I laughed so hard I literally cried. She laughed with me (and probably a bit at me). I’m pretty sure I heard God chuckle as well.