Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Truth About Me

This is a follow on to my previous post about Truth.

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:
  1. We're not wise to it.
  2. We can't do anything to change it.
So, as Jesus said (see previous post), knowing the truth - even when it's bad - has the potential at least to set us free. But what if we can't see any way past it - surely then it's better to just bury our heads in the sand?

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:
  1. God loves us anyway.
  2. He has made a way - through Jesus - for this unpleasant truth to be dealt with!
If you would like to know more about this, then please click here.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Last night I was out with some friends in Leeds City Centre. I often go out on Fridays for 1 or 2 quick drinks after work and then head home and leave the others to it, but on this occasion I stayed out a little later.

The city centre seemed a lot quieter than on previous occasions when I'd been out, and on mentioning this I discovered it had been like this for the last few weeks - the general feeling was that the recession was finally starting to bite. As we sat in Jake's Bar on Call Lane, listening to "Tell me Lies" by Fleetwood Mac, it made me think about the recession versus the "good times" as many would probably think of them. I thought about traders living the high life as markets boomed, celebrating their success, oblivious to the pain that would inevitably follow from their reckless behaviour. I thought about how, even when things are going bad, as much as possible we still want to party - to have fun - and to pretend to ourselves that it isn't really happening.

On my way home later (even in my slightly inebriated state!) I was thinking about truth versus the lies we often tell ourselves because the truth is scary and the lies are more comforting. I thought of that great line in "A Few Good Men", where Jack Nicholson roars out, "You can't handle the truth!!" I also thought of those famous words of Jesus, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!"

Often we don't want the truth because the truth seems unpleasant or too big to face. A friend of mine who doesn't believe in God (and who shall remain nameless) recently confessed to me that for many years he struggled with a fear of death as he believed (and still does believe) that death is the end - there is nothing after that and this ultimately renders life pointless. This is the kind of "truth" that most people don't want to face - or at least they don't want to think about too often! If this is the nature of ultimate truth, then our constructed fantasies and self-delusions would certainly seem like a much better place to live!

But what if the ultimate truth was actually good? What if - as Christians believe - there is a God who loves and cares about us? What if - in spite of all the pain and suffering in the world - there is a plan, and in some not entirely fathomable way, it is all going to work out well in the end? Many people claim to have encountered this truth - and many others denounce them as nutters or deluded for saying so!

But if the ultimate truth is good, then evil is the anomaly and can eventually be conquered. If the ultimate truth is good, then lesser truths - whether good or evil - can be faced head on. We can face the terrible reality of this situation, or that injustice, knowing that evil doesn't get the last word. We can be courageous in fighting injustice, whether we succeed or fail in the short term, knowing that evil is short-lived and that one day all our efforts will finally pay off.

If the ultimate truth is good, and you can know this truth, then as Jesus says, the truth will set you free!