Friday, October 14, 2022

Deception and Self-Deception

Update:  I did not mention that the test of your own courage and the Mean Girl exclusionary nature of your group is to go against its tenets in just one area.  Be down-the-line AOC woke Democrat except expressing some mild sympathy and understanding of the pro-life perspective, or gun rights or something - provided you do not immediately undo it entirely by saying, "But of course I...and of course I..." and the like. There are conservative equivalents but they usually don't have this problem.  They have the opposite problem of being entirely too willing to take an unpopular stand.  Grumbling, irritable bastards who will stay home rather than vote for someone who doesn't meet their standard. 

 But test yourself and your friends that way.  See if you start being disinvited, quietly.

Even single exceptions can be disqualifiers because you are demonstrating that you are willing to look objectively at the Spirit of the Age.  Tom Friedman will go against the tide - and then spend the next six months backtracking with obsequious gesture to get back in good graces. So let's see what you're made of. Make a full-throated defense of strict border control, or (to borrow from other posts) the profound important of marital commitment and vows. Just one thing. I dare ya. No, really I should warn you.  Quillette is loaded with writers who were respectably in one camp until a single incident cast them into the abyss. Then you can begin to fathom the depth of the effect this culture has had on you. Before that you are just dismissing these ideas as something you never heard of and is ridiculous.


"Nothing can deceive unless it bears a plausible resemblance to reality." C S Lewis  An Experiment in Criticism Chapter 6 "The Meaning of Fantasy." Note that this is in one of his secular works, not a Christian one.

Not deceiving oneself is one of the strongest themes in CS Lewis. He regarded his own conversion as resulting from clearing away an accumulation of false beliefs and convenient excuses. This may be why I took to him so readily early in my Christianity, as I was deeply aware of my self-deception and how that spilled over into deceiving others - indeed, all others. These are different from hypocrisy - though we increase our likelihood of being hypocrites before others - these are lies which we tell ourselves, and believe them. I have long been told that if we tell ourselves a lie long enough we will come to believe it, but I am unsure about this. I think self-deception is almost instantaneous, with significantly less awareness that we kid ourselves. She left me because I didn't make enough money for her extravagant lifestyle, rather than She left me because I beat her. We don't have to tell ourselves that a thousand times, though that may strengthen it, because we embrace it so readily straight out of the gate. 

On the other hand, the Scriptures do make reference to a conscience being "seared" because the will ignores it so often that scar tissue is formed.

I tend to the belief that the Unforgivable Sin, the sin "against the Holy Spirit" means something like this, a sin that cannot be confessed and forgiven because we have talked ourselves into believing it is no sin at all. They deserved it. If I don't take it, someone else will. It's only real adultery if, if, if... 

This is the meaning of Polonius's "To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."  To modern ears we immediately think of an Oprah-like encouragement to "be your true self," because that is a more ambiguous morality by which we can excuse self-indulgence, cooperativeness, and a host of other sins. (It can also be a very good thing. Just not always.) But Shakespeare's meaning is that we should not deceive ourselves.

When we are quite certain what the genuine article is, we also see quickly the inadequacy of the imitations. But mostly, we live in the world of imitations, thinking them real and looking down on those who are not as wise as us.


DCC Men's Saturday said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
james said...

It is also remarkably easy to "partition" your life, so that part is run on roughly moral principles, and part is not--and you don't think about that part, just act.

Jonathan said...

One way to explore one's own capacity for self-deception is to put some money into a brokerage account and start trading.

Grim said...

I read this several days ago, and your discussion about sinning against the Holy Spirit continues to bother me so I'm going to try to say why. To say that self-knowledge is the path to salvation -- which is what it boils down to, to say that you need to 'know what to confess' -- is to say that God doesn't love fools as well as he loves clever men.

I think the opposite is surely true just based on natural theology. God clearly loves and defends fools against the consequences of their actions: "God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America." There is a kind of innocence, like unto that of children, about the fool who really doesn't understand what he is doing: "Suffer the little children to come unto me."

More, though, what Jesus advises us to pray about doesn't include detailing of or understanding our sins. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." We don't have to know the first thing about what we've done wrong to make that prayer; we just have to act on what we absolutely do know, which is what we're mad at other people for having done to us. Take care of that one thing that your consciousness can hardly avoid, and ask God to do the same for whatever it is that you've done wrong.

Your dictum strikes me as exactly what a clever man would want to believe, that his cleverness gives him special access to the divine understanding and thus to salvation earned in the eyes of God. But salvation is a gift, one that cannot be earned even if one ought to work in its direction. I wonder if this isn't another sort of self-deception, a hope turned into belief.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think you got the opposite of my intent. Innocence is different. If we are too foolish or too poorly instructed to know what is sin, that is not held against us. What is held against us is when we know stealing is wrong, we know that this particular taking is stealing, but we talk ourselves out of it for convenience sake. It is the difference between those who have not heard the gospel and those who believed but then later rejected.

I still may be wrong about the whole thing, but not in that particular way.

Grim said...

I apologize, then, for having misunderstood what you were trying to say.