The Unnamed Delusion)
In my last post I spoke about how many of us believe that the right and proper way to live is in accordance with the truth, yet at the same time we lie to everyone, including ourselves, about all the wrongs that we do. We are each a person divided, feeling the truth in our heart, transgressing it in our bodies, and refusing to acknowledge the gap in our minds.
Quite frankly, we avoid the hard truths on such a regular basis that we typically don’t even notice that we do it. The fabrications we soothe ourselves with are so practiced and so regular that they don’t even register. Thus, we might examine the general state of our life and admit that something feels off, that it seems we must be living under some self-delusion, but genuinely have no idea what that delusion even is. How can we make a change if we cannot name what the change that we need to make is?
This idea of knowing the name of our hidden, inner truths has its roots in many ancient cultures. There has long been a notion that if you know the true name of an entity, then you could gain power over it. I have seen for myself that there really is something to this. Sometimes the entire battle has been simply to correctly label the problem that I’m struggling with. Other times, it is only the first battle in the war of a lifetime. In either case, it is always the first step towards overcoming that part of my self.
So how do we identify the real, sometimes unpleasant truths lurking inside?
In many cases we we are so close to the issues that we can’t see them clearly, and we need to be shown them from an outside perspective. That might mean having a deeply earnest conversation with a trusted family member or friend. It might mean soliciting the professional insights of a qualified therapist. Certainly it means getting on our knees and asking our Maker to reveal ourselves to us.
The Great Physician)
Let us never forget that this is one of Christ’s essential roles. During his sojourn on Earth he demonstrated his ability to diagnose the state of a person’s soul. He was able to reveal people to themselves, to cut straight to the heart and show them the truth plainly. Let us consider one example of this, the story of Christ and the rich, young ruler (Mark 10:17-22)
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
At first Jesus gives the man a general answer, listing out all the basic things that everyone is instructed to do. But the man is sincere and earnest and he wants more than this. He does all of these things already, he always has, still he questions what he must do to inherit eternal life.
We aren’t told explicitly the young man’s inner thoughts, but I cannot help but wonder if he was much like the sort of person I described above: knowing that something was off, but not knowing what. Perhaps he could tell in his heart that there was something lacking within him, some difficult truth about himself that he had not identified, and he needed the help of the Master to know what it was.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Jesus respects the man’s earnestness by finally giving him the real answer. The young man was indeed obedient and faithful, but Jesus reveals to him the fundamental flaw still at his core was his love of wealth. That dependency on the worldly things was what still stood between him and God. Clearly it was an accurate diagnosis, too, for the man made no attempt to dispute the matter, nor to correct his attitude. He had been seen–really seen–what was inside and he was distressed by what was revealed.
I do believe that one of the reasons we conceal our hard truths from ourselves is because we know that we won’t deal with the problem if we open the door to it. Part of us has decided that it is better to be forever agitated by “something” feeling off inside, but not knowing what it is, than to know what the problem is and be crushed by our inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.
The secret-keeper inside of us says, “Yes, you are a slave. But you’re not ready to risk everything for a rebellion, so why should I show you who your master is? Better that you just go home and try to forget everything about this.”