The Id and the Superego, Self-Righteousness, and Reprobate Minds). However, it may be helpful to put these various thoughts together into one article, in order to hav..." /> The Id and the Superego, Self-Righteousness, and Reprobate Minds). However, it may be helpful to put these various thoughts together into one article, in order to hav..." /> Jesus Christians - Official Website - The Id and Honesty
Click on the quote below to read the article...

What I will be saying in this article more or less repeats some thoughts expressed in a number of other articles (e.g. The Id and the Superego, Self-Righteousness, and Reprobate Minds). However, it may be helpful to put these various thoughts together into one article, in order to have a closer look at exactly how dishonesty can eventually lead to insanity.

First, we'll look at the concept of the Id and the Superego. Freud discovered that serious psychological damage resulted if people tried too hard to deny the existence of certain dark forces deep within themselves. He called these dark forces our id. This teaching has led many to think that the solution is to give in to all of the dark forces. We cannot agree with that. However, we do feel that it is important for people to know themselves in terms of recognising that we do have a dark side, even though it is usually covered up. The "id" is real, and each of us is influenced by it.

As Christians, who believe that God has forgiven us for all of our sins, it should be easier for us to recognise and admit to sin in our lives than what it is for people who do not understand the grace of God. However, experience has shown that a great many professing Christians are more interested in imitating an ideal religious image than they are in knowing the truth about themselves. And the result is that we often suppress (or hide from ourselves) the truth about ourselves. And we hide it through a mask that we wear, called our superego.

The term id refers to the nastier aspects of our personality; whereas the term superego refers to the ideal image that we aspire toward. It is great to strive toward ideals; but it can be harmful to pretend that we have already achieved them when we have not. In this respect, the superego can be more dangerous than the id, because it never allows us to actually deal with our id.

I want to relate these two concepts to the subject of honesty. True honesty... the kind that can bring genuine, deep, and lasting mental and spiritual health... will be the kind of honesty that recognises the more unpleasant truths about ourselves, and then deals with them. But unfortunately, what society most often thinks about with regard to honesty has more to do with a kind of legalistic approach to "never telling a lie".

One of the most defamatory names that can be applied to anyone in the Western world today is the term "liar". Anyone caught out telling a lie is assumed to be guilty of a very serious sin, if not a crime. This emphasis on honesty in Western society is, in many ways, one of the greatest effects of a Christian culture. Christianity puts a lot of emphasis on honesty.

It has been our experience in India, where Hinduism does not say so much about honesty, that a person caught telling a bold-faced lie, just shrugs their shoulders and laughs it off, as though no harm has been done.

It is easy to think that our Western (Christian) culture has the better approach of the two. However, telling a lie in modern Western society may be similar to what committing adultery was in the culture into which Jesus was born. Jesus was not in favour of people committing adultery, but he was against people assuming that there was some deep moral gulf between the adulterers and the non-adulterers. So he stressed that just wanting to commit adultery (but only refraining for fear of being caught) was as bad as actually doing it. It sounded a lot like Freudian psychology, in that he was suggesting that the people wearing a superego mask had an id that was just as bad as the id in the people they were condemning. Surely there must have been religious critics of such a teaching at the time, who would have said that it could be used to suggest that there was nothing wrong with committing adultery. But Jesus was just trying to get one sin (adultery) into perspective with another one (self-righteousness). Adultery came from the id, and self-righteousness came from the superego.

We believe that a similar problem exists between lying and deceiving. The id makes us lie, but the superego makes us deceive. One is as bad (or as harmless) as the other. In fact, in some ways, deceiving is more harmful than lying, if the result is that we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are better than someone who tells outright lies. When this form of deception happens, deception turns into self-righteousness.

Say, for example, that someone comes to you seeking shelter from a killer and then the killer knocks on your door asking if you know where the person is. Do you straight out lie and say that you do not know where the person is? Or do you try some other diversion, such as changing the subject, so that you can avoid answering the question?

The preferred option is the second one. But why is it preferred? Isn't it because you can technically exonerate yourself for not having told a lie? And yet you have still deceived the killer. The motive and the goal in both cases are exactly the same: to deceive the killer and save the innocent person. And if deception is the goal, then would it not be better achieved through a good honest, straight forward lie?

So why do we have moral rules against lying? Isn't it so that people will not mislead and deceive other people in such a way as to be hurtful to them? The wording in the Ten Commandments is that we should not "bear false witness" against our neighbour. In other words, it does not say, "Do not tell a lie." It says not to do something to our "neighbour" that is harmful to that person.

Being a true witness for our neighbour means behaving in a loving way toward our neighbour. The issue is not deception, as such, but rather it is about being unloving or unfair.

If we could focus on the motives, then it might be easier for us to confront deception in our lives and to discern between deception (or straight out lying) which is done for a good reason, and deception (or straight out lying) which is aimed primarily at hurting others or at making ourselves look better than we are.

Jesus was urged by his brothers (who did not believe in him) to go to Jerusalem to prove his authority, and Jesus gave them the impression that he was not going to go to Jerusalem, probably because they represented a security risk. (John 7:2-10) In other words, he deceived them (or possibly straight out lied to them.) However, after they had left, he secretly went up to Jerusalem. Jesus did many things secretly... so much so, that it was necessary for his enemies to bribe one of the disciples to betray him by leading the authorities to his hideout, and then kissing Jesus (who may have been disguised at the time) to indicate which of the men hiding there was Jesus.

All of this secrecy implies deception. But who was Jesus deceiving? He was deceiving the enemy. And that is the primary point we expressed in our article, Honest to Whom? The issue is not whether or not you lie (or deceive), but rather it is why you are lying (or deceiving) and who you are lying to or deceiving. There are right reasons for deceiving and right people to deceive. On this basis, there is no problem with lying to the killer in the earlier illustration. The killer is the enemy. But when we start lying to or deceiving our friends, then we are in trouble spiritually.

There will be a religious outcry when people read that we appear to be condoning lying (in the illustration about the killer coming to the door); but before they jump too hard on us, they should ask themselves whether the churches would condone deception in such a situation And if they would, then there is only a gnat of a difference between deception and lying, and the goal is the same in both cases.

Why strain at such a gnat? If we do not recognise that they both represent the same spirit, then we are in danger of not only deceiving others, but also of deceiving ourselves... about how righteous we really are.

Proverbs 29:11 says, "Only a fool utters all that is in his heart." In other words, the Bible is saying that total openness with everyone is foolish. Under certain circumstances, the Bible supports deception. For example, we need to be careful about what we say to people who are only going to use information against us. On the other hand, we need to be mercilessly honest with those who matter most to us. At the top of that list need to be God and yourself. If you start lying to (or even deceiving) yourself, it can easily lead to spiritual darkness and even insanity.

The Bible talks about hypocrites, who "sear their conscience" by lying to God. (1 Timothy 4:2) This is what we do when we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are better than we are. The superego struggles to convince us that we have no id. It tends to deny the existence of things like sexual urges, greed, and anger. And it tends to deny the fact that we hide things from other people as well, whether through deception or dishonesty. In order to get the bigger truth behind what is going on, it is better to say that, if you feel that you must lie to (or deceive) someone, at least be honest (to yourself and to God) about your dishonesty.

Okay, so you lied and told the killer that you didn't know where the potential victim was hiding. Admit it to yourself and to God and little (if any) damage will be done. You may even achieve some good, in the sense of saving a life. But if you deceive the killer (without telling an actual lie) and then you deceive yourself into thinking that you are better than someone who might tell an outright lie in the same situation, you could be "searing" a tiny piece of your conscience. You do that by blotting out of conscious memory the fact that you used deception, and you blot it out on the grounds that you did not technically tell a lie. But spiritually, there is no difference, any more than there is a difference between adultery and lust.

The purpose of the superego is to hide the truth about the id. But if you do not recognise that, then little by little this dishonest superego will create "blind spots" in your mind... areas where you will at least claim to be unaware of any problem at all, even though others may see obvious and serious problems. These blind spots usually come from years of lying to yourself about how righteous you really are. It is far better to be unrighteous and aware of it, than to be self-righteous.

Don't forget that self-righteous people are also unrighteous, but they are worse than other unrighteous people because they are unaware of their unrighteousness; and they are unaware of it, because they have denied the presence of the id in their everyday life.

The superego can be quite vicious in denying the id. It will go to almost any length to avoid confronting the truth about itself. In extreme cases, insanity may result. No wonder that Jesus said that he came for the sinners and not for the righteous! The truth was that they were all sinners; but the religious people of his day had hidden their sinfulness from themselves for so long that they had become totally convinced of their righteousness, and could not tolerate anyone even suggesting otherwise.

So what happens when Jesus (or even when some other individual who is dedicated to knowing the truth) comes along? Jesus' totally unaffected spontaneity becomes convicting to the uptight, repressed, pious religious person. Jesus, and those who seek to follow in his footsteps, convict the self-righteous people of the world by their honesty, and the self-righteous people hate them in return. All of this hatred is an attempt to protect the superego of these people from the truth about their id. To be more specific, it is an attempt by a deceiver to run away from the truth about his or her deceptions.

The answer for anyone who wants to change, is that you must face up to the truth about yourself. Admit that you deceive people and that you have deceived yourself, and then start praying for greater understanding from God about when it is okay to deceive and when it is not. When it is not okay to deceive, then you must tell the truth and face the consequences. When it is okay to deceive, then go ahead and do it (whether by outright lies or not), but don't deceive yourself by pretending that you have not deceived anyone.

If you are not sure whether this study applies to you, then consider some of the techniques that people use to escape the truth, and ask yourself whether you too use them at times. If you do use them, then ask yourself whether you use them knowingly. In other words, do you consciously consider whether or not it is appropriate to deceive someone, and then consciously choose to do so if it is appropriate. The issue here is not whether you should stop deceiving people, but rather the issue is whether or not you deceive yourself about the fact that you are doing it.

I will now discuss some ways that we escape from (or hide) the truth.

The most common way that we deceive other people is simply by saying nothing. We could choose to confess our faults to everyone that we meet; but that is not necessary, and there are a lot of people who would rather not hear them. However, if we do not confess our faults to anyone, we may soon stop confessing them to either ourselves or to God.

James 5:16 says that you should "confess your faults to one another" as a means of being "healed". Whatever effect this may have on diseases or injuries, there is no doubt that confession is good for the "soul". There is a spiritual healing that comes from being able to come right out and state your faults to at least one other human being.

Protestants, who object to Catholics confessing to a priest, often fail to get specific even with God when it comes to faults and sins. They hide behind a vague, generalised doctrine about everyone being sinners; but as soon as anyone suggests that they may be guilty of specific sins, they don't want to talk about it. Often they are running from the truth about themselves, and they are cheating themselves out of the spiritual healing that they could have if they would just own up to their sinfulness in specific matters.

When someone begins to prod you with questions about sins that you are hiding, you will give away your dishonesty if you become evasive in your answers. You can passively deceive yourself just by never talking about it. But when confronted with probing questions, you will probably need to take more active steps to get away from the truth.

"Misremembering" is one form of evasion. You simply say that you cannot remember. It is often used in court, especially in countries where a person cannot refuse to testify on the grounds that it may incriminate them. They can claim not to remember almost anything, and it is virtually impossible for the court to convict them of perjury; for who can say that they have not actually forgotten what they claim to have forgotten?

The problem is that a religious person cannot live with the fact that they are lying about having forgotten something, so they try to make their own testimony "true" by blotting all memory of the incident out of their minds. This is what we call "misremembering" as opposed to genuinely forgetting something or simply lying.

The person who misremembers puts up a marker on that area of their memory. It says, "out of bounds--not to be tampered with". In essence, they simply choose to burn that part of their brain out of existence (in an effort to make the lie technically not a lie). In that way, they can tell themselves that they really have forgotten the information that they do not want to confront, and so they have not told a lie.

This form of self-deception is extremely dangerous, and yet it is fairly widespread. People regularly rewrite personal experience to make it conform with a more flattering picture of themselves. It is tempting to say that a little bit of this is harmless (since we all do it), but the truth is that even the slightest self-deception will limit us in our ability to grow spiritually. And a lot of self-deception can have devastating effects.

Jesus talked about people "falling on a rock" in relation to the truth that he taught. (Matthew 21:44) He said that the truth would "break" them, but he also said that it would "set them free". (John 8:32) What he was saying is that there are dimensions of spiritual liberation that can only come about when we are willing to face up to uncomfortable truths about ourselves. The more fully we come to know and understand our own weaknesses and faults, the more fully we will be able to discover our full spiritual potential.

But there are other strategies that people use to evade the truth. Even misremembering may not work if there is another person who insists on pushing evidence of our sinfulness in our faces. When this happens, in order to maintain our self-deception, we will have to take more aggressive action.

We can, for a short time claim not to understand what they are talking about. But feigning confusion is only a temporary diversion aimed at stalling for time. A more effective form of evasion is to physically remove yourself from the presence of the person who is confronting you with the truth about yourself.

You can politely say that you will "get back" to the person later, or excuse yourself to "go away and think about" what has been said, and then do your best to avoid the person or situation which threatens to confront you with the truth about yourself. If a polite escape does not work, you can simply turn and run.

However, when all else fails, the final defence of the deceiver is a good offence, and that is when people start attacking the one who is threatening to expose the truth about themselves. That is precisely why Jesus was crucified, and why he would be crucified again today. Any preacher knows that if you get too specific about the sins of the congregation, they will turn on you. And if you do not let up, they will go to any length (including murder) to silence the voice of conscience.

Religion makes a habit of feigning righteousness by preaching against the sins of the world. But the specific sins and specific parts of the world being criticised are usually somewhat removed from the actual congregation receiving the message. Unless at least half of the congregation is convinced that they are not being personally criticised by the preacher, the preacher's popularity, job, and even his/her life could be in danger.

We regularly find people who feel us out to see if we will join them in damning the sins of other religions and other denominations, and to see if we will stop short of damning their own sins and their own congregation. When we refuse to aid them in such self-deception, they turn on us.

Mind you, just criticising everyone else does not make us right. We must practise what we preach, and that means that we must apply all of the criticisms that we apply to others to ourselves and to our own congregations as well. As we have done that, we have found more revelation, more truth, and more spiritual power than we ever could have imagined before we started down this path. We are not deluded about our own righteousness, as we uncover new deceptions in our own id almost daily. But by bringing these deceptions out in the open and confessing to them, we become freer and freer, and we become more and more powerful spiritually.

Hopefully what we have shared in this article will help some others to have the courage to face up to uncomfortable truths about themselves as well.

(See also Without Guile.)

Register or log in to take the quiz for this article

Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account