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What I will be saying in this article more or less repeats some thoughts expressed in a number of other articles (e.g. Honest to Whom? 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 people 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 often cover up and pretend that we are better than we really are. 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 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. The result is that we often suppress the truth in order to maintain the image.

The term :"id" refers to those less than ideal 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.

Now, let us relate those concepts to the subject of honesty. 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. In India, if a person is caught telling a bold-faced lie, for example, they just shrug their shoulders and laugh it off, as though nothing wrong has been done.

However, telling a lie in modern Western society is 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, and surely there must have been religious critics of such a teaching 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).

We believe that a similar problem exists between lying and deceiving. 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 happens, deception turns into self-righteousness.

Say, for example, that someone comes to you seeking shelter from a killer. Then the killer knocks on your door asking if you know where the person is. Do you lie and say that you don't? 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? Isn't it because you can technically exonerate yourself for not having told a lie? And yet you have still deceived the killer. 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? The wording in the Ten Commandments is that we should not "bear false witness" against our neighbour. But when you go to a court to be a witness for or against someone, the court asks you to agree to tell "the whole truth". If you hide some significant aspect of the truth without technically telling a lie, you are still bearing false witness against (or for) your neighbour. You are not only deceiving the court, but you may be deceiving yourself into thinking that you have done nothing wrong by deceiving the court.

It may sound like we are putting an impossible burden on you, i.e. that you not only should never tell a lie, but also that you should never deceive anyone. And if that is so, then we are putting a heavier burden on you than God or the Bible ever requires of anyone. The issue in the Bible about being a true witness for our neighbour is one of love more than one of never deceiving (or lying to) anyone. So it isn't deception that is wrong, but rather it is being unloving that is wrong. And when we see this, then it may be easier for us to face up to just how much we deceive others every day. It may also be easier for us to discern between deception which is done for a good reason and deception which is aimed primarily 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 7:1-10) 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 thought we have 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). 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. There will be a religious outcry when people read that we appear to be "condoning lying", but the question we must ask in the above illustration is whether the churches would condone deception. And if they would, then there is only a gnat of a difference between deception and lying. And it is only a gnat of difference, because they both represent the same spirit.

The Proverbs say, "Only a fool utters all that is in his heart." We need to be selective 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 ones 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 people who "sear their conscience". 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.

That is why we say that, if you feel 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 and then deceive yourself into thinking that you are better than someone who might tell a 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. Yet spiritually, there is no difference.

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. The self-righteous person is also unrighteous, but they become 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? Such a person's totally unaffected spontaneity becomes convicting to the uptight, repressed, pious religious person. Jesus, and those who seek to follow in his footsteps, convict the masses by their honesty, and the masses hate them in return. All of this is an attempt to protect the superego of the masses 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, but don't deceive yourself by pretending that you have not done it.

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.

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. Nevertheless, if we do not confess our faults to anyone, we may soon stop confessing them to either ourselves or to God. The Epistle of James says that we should "confess our 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 probe 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, your superego will 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 can't live with the fact that they are lying about having forgotten, so they try to make their testimony "true" by actually blotting out memory of the incident. This is what we call "misremembering" as opposed to genuinely forgetting. The person who misremembers marks that area of their memory "out of bounds--not to be tampered with". In essence, they simply choose to burn that part of their brain out of existence. In that way, they can tell themselves that they really have forgotten the information that they do not want to confront.

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. He said that the truth would "break" them, but he also said that it would "set them free". 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 someone insists on pushing evidence of your sinfulness in your face. In order to maintain your self-deception, you will then have to take more aggressive action.

You 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 may 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 usually start attacking the person 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 sins of the 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, but 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 and accuse us of the worst possible heresies.

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 give others the courage to face up to uncomfortable truths about themselves as well.

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