Have you ever grown frustrated when a friend or family member can’t admit the truth?
Maybe a loved one refuses to acknowledge he has an addiction problem.
Maybe your co-worker seems to ignore her husband’s seemingly obvious affair.
Or, maybe it is even more subtle…
Maybe you can’t see your own sin because you have deceived yourself into believing what you are doing is not wrong or not that bad or even acceptable because everyone else is doing it.
Ultimately, self-deception is the opposite of self-awareness.
For example, we are unaware of our need for God to help us overcome our sins and issues.
We deceive ourselves into believing we either don’t need help or we can handle it on our own.
Today, we look at the problem of self-deception.
What is Self-Deception?
Merriam-Webster defines self-deception as “the act or an instance of deceiving oneself or the state of being deceived by oneself, especially concerning one's true nature, feelings, etc.”
The problem with self-deception is it is deception, and it’s so hard to see in the mirror.
Since we are deceived, we hinder our spiritual growth, and we cannot grow if we cannot acknowledge our need to change.
In the Foreword of I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life by Gregg Ten Elshof, the author explains, “In self-deception the individual or group refuses to acknowledge factors in their life of which they are dimly conscious, or even know to be the case, but are unprepared to deal with: to openly admit and take steps to change.”
What’s in Your Heart?
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
– Jeremiah 17:9
Since the Garden of Eden, humans have fallen victim to their own deceitful hearts.
If you think your heart isn’t deceitful, you’re already lying to yourself!
The problem with self-deception is how it makes us believe we are not sinning.
The Biblical Counseling Coalition says, “Pride makes it difficult to see the sin which exists in our own heart while magnifying the imperfections in other people.”
What sins do you judge others for that exist in your own heart?
What is Motivating You to Deceive Yourself?
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”
– Obadiah 1:3
According to the Biblical Counseling Coalition, there are three Biblical categories which often motivate people towards self-deception.
These are pride, fear, and idolatry.
Pride leads us to suppress our sins rather than acknowledge they are separating us from God.
Fear, such as fear of judgment, leads to self-deception.
Idolatry drives us to deceive when we seek to justify our sins.
As Diane Langberg, Ph.D. explains, we use self-deception to ignore, justify, and commit wrongs rather than facing our feelings and sins.
We would rather deceive ourselves than address what’s in our heart.
Strategies You May Use
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.”
– James 1:22
Self-deception is subtle. We often don’t even realize we are doing it in the moment.
James, the brother of Jesus, encourages us to do what the Bible says – not merely listen to it.
How many people do you know who have convinced themselves they are doing right just because they go to church and hear the Word?
How many people deceive themselves into believing it’s enough to listen but not actually do?
Here are some signs you may be self-deceived:
- Do you blame others?
- Do you make accusatory statements?
- Do you not do as you should when you should and excuse it with “I’ll do it later”?
- Do you delay changing by saying things such as “Once X happens, then I’ll…”?
- Do you conceal your heart by focusing on intellectual arguments instead?
Stop Using Your Own Measurements, Use God’s Standard Instead
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
– Psalm 139:23-24
The Founders Ministries writes, “Self-deception emerges from living on a self-referential basis. Such people measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves to themselves and, Paul says, ‘are not wise’ (2 Corinthians 10:12).”
To overcome self-deception, stop judging yourself according to our own standards.
Hold your heart up to God and ask Him to reveal the deceit in it so you may repent.
Lean Not On Your Own Understanding
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6
Instead of placing your trust in your deceitful heart, trust in the Lord!
As Diane Langberg, Ph.D. says, “Deception’s origin is in the human heart, and none of us is exempt.”
We need to acknowledge self-deception when it occurs.
By being aware of our sinful nature and acknowledging the human desire to deceive ourselves rather than facing our feeling and sins, we are two steps closer to defeating this temptation.
Truths to Remember
If you have put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, there are several truths to remember. They are infinitely more important than any lie you try to tell yourself.
- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans 3:23-25).”
- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”
- The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17).
- Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).”
- Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37).”