To Live Freely: Part Six

Summary)

I have been discussing two examples of how we try to make someone’s life better by convincing them of a fundamental lie. I have attempted to refute both examples, and to illustrate how each ultimately causes further harm to the individual.

The first issue I have presented with “helpful” lies is that they disconnect the victim from reality, and if the person ever falls back to that reality by discovering the truth of the matter it causes them great pain. They have the pain of the truth now compounded with the fact that they were deceived and left to act in a way that was against their own wellbeing.

The second issue I presented is that someone lying to protect others from disagreeable notions is ironically reinforcing those same hated notions. If one has to lie to cover something unpleasant, it generates suspicion that the unpleasant thing is, in fact, the truth. Think of a suspect of a crime, giving an alibi that is proven to be false. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he committed the crime, but it definitely fosters suspicion that he has. A “protecting” lie only undermines itself in the long term.

The Human Desire)

In both of these cases there is a strong sense of lies getting in the way of the person being deceived. Let’s explore that a little bit.

When all is said and done, everyone is trying to live their lives and accomplish good things along the way. We all want to secure basic comforts, we want to belong to something greater than ourselves, and we want to achieve things that we can be proud of. And while these are simple criteria to list out, they are by no means simple or easy to accomplish! Life is genuinely difficult, and there are all manner of frustrations that naturally arise and must be overcome if we are to ever realize our deepest desires. In fact, we all need help if we’re to meet these ideals, and if someone isn’t able to help, then we at least expect them to stay out of the way!

Every distraction or confusion is an unnecessary hurdle, adding to the already difficult work of life, and a lie is certainly both distracting and confusing. By definition, a lie warps, obfuscates, or completely masks the truth. It makes the path ahead more difficult and sometimes impossible to perceive, thus increasing the chances of us stumbling along our way.

Consider that all of the offenses that we might commit against another person are, at their fundamental level, a frustration of the other person’s ability to achieve these core life desires. To kill, to steal, to abuse, to insult, to lie; all of these get in the way of life, comfort, belonging, and/or purpose. This is why these behaviors are considered antisocial. They are wrong to do because they unjustly take what matters most. Lying is often the most subtle of these aggravators, which is why we sometimes disregard it, but it still remains just as fundamentally wrong as all the other types of harm.

Self-Delusion)

In these most recent posts I have been arguing why it is wrong to set another person on a deceitful precipice, but it is also just as wrong to do it to ourselves. My core contention in this series is that we must recognize and overcome our tendencies towards self-delusion and self-minimizing.

There are hard truths that we don’t want to face, realities that we would rather pretend away, lies that we would prefer to live. And because we are the ones doing these things to ourselves, we somehow feel that it is okay. But as we’ve just discussed, living under this delusion frustrates our core desires, even when they are self-imposed. It’s never okay to stand in the way of our own dreams.

The thing about self-delusion is that only the self can choose to come out of it. Someone else can call you out on your folly, they can even stage an intervention, but none of that makes the real difference. You can hear everything that they say, you can even admit that they are right, but still go right on living detached from it all. Only you hold yourself prisoner, so only you can set yourself free.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 41:1

1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

Two more years passed after the event of Joseph interpreting the dreams for the chief butler and baker, and all the while he was left stewing in jail. To me that seems long enough to give up hope that the chief butler would ever help Joseph to get out of jail.

We don’t hear anything about how Joseph conducted himself during all this time. Presumably he still retained his conscience, but I can’t help but wonder what state his heart was in. Did he ever have days of despair where he assumed that this imprisonment would never end?

Certainly we also have our difficult situations that we cannot see a way out of. We each have situations where every attempt to find deliverance is frustrated, until at last we accept that we have no control over the matter. Then we try to turn things over to God, but after a time of our prayers going unanswered we start to question whether even He will ever take this obstacle away. We start to surrender to the expectation that things will remain just as they are forever.

This is an extremely humbling, even heart-breaking, experience to pass through. We have an innate sense of justice inside of us, which cries out that everything should be brought to its rightful place. The innocent should be exonerated and the guilty condemned, that is the right and natural order of things, yet that isn’t what we see happening around us. It is a hard thing to maintain our sense of what the right and ordered world should be, while also submitting to the fact that that simply is not how things always are.

The nature of bubbles in water is to rise to the surface, but sometimes these pockets of air get caught on sunken debris and held down where they should not be. But even a pocket of air trapped for a hundred years never loses its true nature. When decay and currents finally clear away the obstacle, air will still rise to the top.

So it is meant to be for us. Justice may be frustrated for a time and our surroundings may not match our quality of character for a season; but whether in this life or the next, all will eventually be made right. Though it takes an act of God, the good will eventually rise and the evil will fall. As we will see soon, this is what happens for Joseph. He is trapped with no earthly hope of deliverance, and certainly for a longer period than he would have preferred, yet deliverance does occur.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 31:36, 38-42

36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?

38 This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.

39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.

40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

This is quite the tirade from Jacob! We saw him run from his old home in fear of Esau and we saw him steal away quietly from his second home in fear of Laban. Now, though, being chased by Laban seems to have been one terror too many. At long last he comes out and expresses all his frustration and hurt.

I can’t help but imagine Jacob has inwardly yearned to give this speech to his father-in-law for a long time. One affliction after another spills out of him in a rapid-fire rant. He bore the loss of every goat, he served for twenty years, he had his wages changed ten times, he exposed himself to the elements, and after all this Laban would have left him empty-handed if it hadn’t been for the intervention of God!

These are the words of a man who is not worried about what happens to the relationship afterwards. Laban already told Jacob that he has been commanded by God to do him no harm, so he is emboldened to say whatever is in his heart without restraint.