If you have time, read last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer cover story on the police who use their badge to extort sex (http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/15263711.htm). Most interesting was the comments made by former State Trooper, Michael Evans. He talked about how he justified his behavior to himself:
“I would see women that were vulnerable where I could appear as a knight in shining armor,” he said. “I’m going to help this woman who’s being abused by her boyfriend, and then I’ll ask for sexual favors.”
What empowers a person to do what should normally be distasteful? Self-deception–having thoughts of oneself that one wants to have (rather than should have). I’m sure his “knight” fantasies didn’t include groping a pregnant woman in a hospital bed and masturbating, but thats the power of self-deception. It makes it possible for him to keep thinking good thoughts about himself while doing evil.
Isn’t this true for all of us. Here’s one form of my self-deceit. I like to think of myself as up to date in the world and on top of things. So, I surf the web for information to keep me up to date. But self-deception (I’m a knowledgable guy) allows me to forget that I’m surfing and stealing time from my family or from work…
We wonder how someone could do horrific things? By only entertaining thoughts of ourselves that we want to have. This is how we make acceptable things that should not be. It never happens overnight, but it happens when we practice naming things beautiful that are really ugly.
What’s the antidote? I came across this quote some time ago and it best describes what we must do to work with the Spirit to challenge our inmost thoughts of ourself:
It were an easy thing to be a Christian, if religion stood only in a few outward works and duties. But to take the soul to task, and to deal roundly with our own hearts, and to let conscience have its full work, and to bring the sould unto God, this is not so easy a matter, because the soul out of self-love is loath to enter into itself, lest it should have other thoughts of itself that it would have.
Richard Sibbes (Puritan Divine)