I love to fool myself. I’d like to think I’m too wise for that, but the fact is, I have to constantly check myself, and reconnect with God, to find the true path. Even with all I’ve been blessed to experience, I’m always catching myself trying to play the game that keeps my ego safe, and God just at arm’s length.
Sometimes, on an extremely subtle level, I’m trying to protect my own illusion of control, my wants and needs. I serve God, but still catch myself maintaining my own insecurities. I say I want to give up those insecurities, but I secretly hold them close to me as a kind of defense mechanism. It’s not something I consciously intend, to hold onto insecurities that ultimately keep me further from God, and it doesn’t mean my efforts aren’t sincere. St. Paul famously proclaimed his “frustration” with his seeming lack of power to ultimately control his intentions and actions(the issue goes far deeper than that but for brevity, I will characterize it this way). Once you see the game, however, it is a great teacher that lurks within each of us.
You might be wondering how I fool myself- it doesn’t really matter. The details will be different for each of us. They will change with our personalities, the situations we are in, and the stages of life we’re experiencing. We can frame the game as material, spiritual, interpersonal, or whatever other category you’d like to use. You can name it anxiety, depression, character flaws, or just confusion. There are an infinite number of ways we can characterize, and rationalize, our game.
The key point is that, if we look closely, there is always an upside, an advantage we think we can get, to our drama, that we pretend doesn’t exist- perhaps more so to the dramas we protest the most! We use the idea that we have been victimized, or have a problem, to pretend we can’t have the life God intended. It may seem like this protects you, but it is only holding you back from who you are meant to be.
I’m using myself as an example because it is EXTREMELY easy to fall into a defensive mode when talking about these things. No one, including me, enjoys the initial call out when we are seen fooling ourselves and being deluded. But seeing these things is part of the path to God. Acknowledging your game, the things you secretly get from playing the victim, or complaining, or blaming, or lying to yourself and others, is absolutely critical to healing.
The ways we fool ourselves can be seemingly simple, or very complicated. Maybe complaining is our game. It’s our way of relating to people. Everytime we talk, we complain about something and expect that to be reflected back to us. It’s becomes a safe place where we know others will confirm our suffering. Maybe little white lies, or even big lies, to ourselves and others, is our game. But have you ever seen someone complain and then get a opposite response that doesn’t affirm the other person’s outlook. Have you ever seen a habitual liar get caught? Watch out for the fireworks!
We have so many private ways of complaining and lying to ourselves about who we are and how trapped we are-
“I can’t leave my job, I’d never be good enough to find something I really like. I can’t start my own business, I’m too afraid. I’m depressed, I should just stay to myself. I’m a person with anxiety. I’m a person with PTSD”
You want to let the wounded, ego centered part of yourself, and others, tell you who you are, but Jesus has already defined you! What if we saw ourselves, and others, as Jesus sees us? What kind of lives would we lead, society would we live in? What if LOVE was the cornerstone of everything we do rather than anxiety, judgment, conformity etc?
I challenge us, as keepers of one another, to see the ways we use false narratives to justify certain behaviors, and perspectives, that are ultimately limiting the life Jesus promised to us. What do you think you are gaining by complaining, labeling yourself as a person with some limitation? Don’t do this in guilt, but in faith, knowing that you are truly loved. Trust in God’s promise, take a step toward Christ, and His Grace will transform weakness into strength.