For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. – James 3:2-5
When we’re under stress and in times of attrition, it’s easy to be glib and economical with the truth. It can help get us out of having to deal with the consequences of our actions or inactions, after all…what’s wrong with trying to make things a little easier for ourselves?
Chiefly, what’s wrong with it is that it’s not supposed to be easy. Accepting consequence is a lesson in understanding your complicity in the simple cause and effect of life — “I did this, so that occurred, and now I am left in this position.” Attempting to cheat consequence is a sign of immaturity, and one that we encourage children to grow out of where at all possible… but we’ve still all met people who continue in that behavior all their adult lives.
Those people don’t like their behaviour, their failings, coming under scrutiny — or if they do, they’d prefer it to be their own scrutiny. Like corrupt politicians, those people would rather control the depth and the scope of the enquiry in order that they can manipulate the results, and those people would really rather not have someone else handling that responsibility in case uncomfortable truths were revealed.
When that happens, outrage is generally the weapon of choice those people pick first in retaliating. How dare you! Are you calling me a liar? What right do you think you have? Who exactly do you think you are? It’s their way of obstructing further investigation and additional uncovering of the carefully constructed strategies they have for not being caught out: to catch someone on the back foot and put them on the defensive.
As a rule, the tactics that those people use are based around the letter of the law, and a creative application of scripture and spiritual jargon — because let’s face it, the worthwhile has been twisted by the unscrupulous to confuse the unprepared for far longer than we care to remember. If this is all sounding very familiar, then chances are we’ve met more than one of those people: and it’s very likely that one of them was us.
As a rule, we engage in three behaviours that allow us to prevaricate about changing our ways. We delete what we’ve said or done that might be considered to be wrong, revising our history to suit us. We distort what others say or do to make them out to be worse or more culpable than we are—to shift attention, maybe even responsibility to someone else. We generalize about our involvement in the process that needs to occur to fix the problem, saying that we’ll do it tomorrow, or finding ways to minimize the effort we need to put in. All of these deletions, distortions and generalizations can be vague or specific in nature, depending on what’s needed, because if there’s one thing that inspires a particular kind of creativity, it’s the clever lie that gets us out of trouble.
Essentially, it’s the creation of a version of events that allows us to avoid responsibility, a new timeline where we’re not the cause of the problem and therefore don’t have to work at the solution. It’s where we tell someone else what we think is true — but that’s distinct and different from the truth. Christ is the truth. Everything else in our lives aside from the Kingdom of Heaven is merely some shade of true or false.
Honest insight comes with the application of that truth — God’s truth, the heart of Christ — to ourselves. It’s the building blocks of integrity, that unyielding rock of utter, unshakeable faith and strength of character that comes directly from the Father’s own.
In your own place in life, are you finding yourself in difficulty and deleting, distorting and generalizing your way out of it? Splintering yourself into many different “true” versions of yourself, and avoiding the truth of Christ’s own heart for you? You can become a single person again, bring all the disparate pieces of yourself back together. That’s the lesson God gives us in the story of his Son’s sacrifice for us. We don’t have to be those people anymore.