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Fooled - Part 3 - Self Deception

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

“Many deceptions only appeal to us because there is something inside us that “wants” to believe them. They are seductive because of darkness and wrong motives in our own lives. We must search our hearts and root these out.” – Andrew Strom

How do we know if we are deceived?

What are the lies we tell ourselves?

Years ago… I was struggling with an addictive mindset. I was sensitive to judgement, was constantly seeking to justify my shortcomings in some way. I would get angry when confronted, I would in essence make it about me.

Self deception is natural, A pastor loved by all can slip into self deception just as easily as someone who has never darkened the doors of a Church. We can begin to believe a lie or lies about ourselves very quickly as our focus shifts towards self - it can be a lie of self condemnation.... or one of self importance... without noticing our reputation can become our centre. We can also begin to justify ourselves based on our feelings... feelings of guilt, shame, pride or anger can shift our thinking without us even realizing it.

The truth about self deception is that in the end it is entirely narcissistic in nature. Phrases like "I just feel...", "I'm happier now that I'm..." or for a pastor "how dare you question my authority..." begin to filter into our language. Note that each phrase is focusing on self and based in offence or desire. In essence deception happens when we raise our feelings above what is right or true.

To someone who is deceived – self justification keeps them from accountability for their actions as blame is passed on to those around them. I remember getting Angry when confronted about my own actions... I felt disrespected... and I felt like it was a personal attack. Most of the time it was just someone who cared who wanted me to see how my actions were affecting them. Self justification blinds us to the impact of our actions on our friends, our family and our coworkers. The lashing out is a reacting out of a deep need for self justification.

Rick Reynolds, founder of an organization called “Affair Recovery” says of self justification (in the context of infidelity in a marriage):

“Justifications are thought patterns used to push away guilt and allow the wayward spouse to deceive themselves into thinking they have little or no responsibility for their choices.”

To the person who is deceived… they do not know they are deceived. If they knew of their deception they would not be deceived but willfully ignorant… the deception blinds them from the reality of their true condition.

Going back to last weeks post... the words of Augustine continue to resonate here:

“The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner.”

How do we know when we are deceived?

It seems to me that every man or woman wants to be the hero of their own story!

The truth is we don’t want to FEEL like we are failures… that feeling is the driving motivation for us to create alternate realities that exchange real and subjective truth for our own personal truth. It is in essence “exchanging the truth for a lie”.

I’ve failed on so many levels. My business failed, I failed at times being a supportive and caring husband, a present and compassionate father that was emotionally there. I’m not proud of the man I’ve been… but I’m proud of the man I am becoming as Christ heals and restores within me a corrected image of myself that is founded on His perfection - a standard that cannot be corrupted rather than my own... which by its very nature is in error...

Pride pushed me to create a "truth" that made me a hero in my own eyes… or at the very least accepted in my condition… but it was a false reality!

Truth comes – and peace follows when we stop and admit – “I failed”… and we begin the search for THE TRUTH instead of OUR truth. We need not wallow in shame or depression or in fear of more failure... but failure is simply another step to learning truth.

So... How do we know if we are deceived?

Here's just two questions to start the journey to truth:

  1. is the truth we claim founded on genuine abjective truth or on our feelings of fear, rejection, anger or unforgivness?

  2. are we wanting to be perceived right or actually right? There is an important distinction....

We are called to love ourselves… however... when our love of self becomes entirely self focused and self preserving... it shifts into self deception.... which leads to narcissism... we have all been there at some level. We no longer see ourselves as we truly are but choose to only see ourselves through our own created image and our goal becomes to protect the image of truth versus actually seeking genuine truth.

When I was in this place of self deception... Instead of confession and admission of failure I would revert to either self condemnation... which is a form of self worship... or self justification... which is also a form of self worship. Both of these responses are truth-denying and raise up the small g god of self while diminishing taking any responsibility for collateral damage because of our own "truth".


“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” -- Apostle Paul

Self deception is not only possible but probable at some point, which is why we need to have a standard of truth to regularly review… and we need to examine ourselves against that standard not in fear and condemnation but rather in a place of alignment... A state of constant adjustment and humility – realizing that pride can deceive us quickly.

Let's look at this from a business perspective. Within the business world we have a practice called “lean business practice”. Lean practice is the process of constant improvement… it is a mindset that is always encouraging the team to avoid self deception... that is to say "thinking we have arrived at perfection" and rather developing a team culture that is always identifying bad processes, inefficiencies, bottlenecks and issues that are slowing down productivity. This practice has driven some Fortune 500 companies to amazing team cultures and significant profits as the companies cultures are overtaken with humility and always seeking better alignment with the companies goals.

This is how we can avoid self deception… we submit ourselves to a constant state of fine tuning by the Holy Spirit and our families, our friends and our faith community. This also shows the importance of a community that walks with us in this journey...

Please share and subscribe if you found this helpful or thought provoking!

Stay strong & Be the Change!

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