In that post I commented that there are some truths that seem too big or too scary to face and that consequently we sometimes prefer to delude ourselves. I also suggested though, that if the greatest truth of all is positive - that there is a God who loves and cares about us and will work out everything for good in the end - then it becomes possible to confront all of these awful lesser truths.
One of the truths that is often hardest to deal with is the truth about ourselves. A person's ability to see themself in a positive light will often depend, to a large extent, on the way they have been treated by others, particularly during the earliest and most impressionable years of their life. Low self-image is a curse for many people and not something I take lightly, having suffered with it for many years myself. On the flip side though, however good we may think we are (and there are many good things about all of us), we all carry dark secrets in our hearts that we conceal from everyone, and sometimes even from ourselves. The book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament part of the Bible puts this aptly and very starkly: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?".
From the outside, I'm pretty sure I don't look like an evil person. I give money to charity. I've never murdered anyone. My wife seems to think I'm mostly a good husband. I'm generally reliable and conscientious. I don't steal. I have a speeding ticket, but that was due to a lapse in concentration rather than a contemptuous disregard for the law... I'm not perfect of course, but I think you get the general idea!
So what dark secrets do I hide? What's so terrible about me...? The truth is I am afflicted by a killer disease which brings death and darkness to my soul! When I hold an honest mirror to the depths of my own heart I often hate what I see. I see insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, pride. I see character traits that - if fully acted on - would render me unloved and unlovable by all but the most determined and long-suffering of friends. And so - I conform. I maintain an appearance of decency and keep my worst excesses in check. I am glad to say though - before you think me a complete fraud - that I am sometimes also stirred by good and noble motives!
In the Bible, in chapter 7 of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes his struggle with what he calls his "sinful nature" like this:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing ... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"Facing the truth about ourselves is hard, especially when it's bad, which in part at least it is - for all of us. Not facing up to a bad truth won't make it go away though. It still affects us and if anything its effect is more insidious because:
- We're not wise to it.
- We can't do anything to change it.
But - to repeat again what I also said in my previous post - if the ultimate truth is good, then any lesser truth can be squarely and honestly faced. In particular, the truth about ourselves can be faced because:
- God loves us anyway.
- He has made a way - through Jesus - for this unpleasant truth to be dealt with!