Seeing through the glass darkly

I’ve been thinking about how frequently counseling is conversations about the problem of distorted judgment. Its not surprising. Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, were dependent on God for instructions on how to live. Their sin was to reject that dependence and seek independent knowledge of good and evil. The result? We really have tendencies toward two extremes: Either we underestimate our own impact on others (our actions, flaws, character, etc.) or we overestimate our impact and character defects). 

Those who underestimate their flaws tend to correspondingly place blame on others for problems in their life. And while others do cause us problems, some of us have excellent deflecting capacity to present themselves as innocent of all guilt (or if they have any, its only just because someone else is making them act that way).
Those that overestimate their flaws tend to accept blame that is not their own. They feel guilty for other people’s negative feelings and experiences. And while there times when we hurt others and we ought to feel guilty for that, some folk feel guilty for any bad experience of another.

As a counselor, I too am infected with the same problem. Counselors can easily feel self-righteous, that we have objectivity when our poor counselors do not. My job is to attack my own distortions while desperately seeking the Spirit’s guide to help me help my clients discern what is real and true in their own lives.

What makes it hard is that our distortions are hard to challenge. We “know” what we know pretty firmly. Just like a client I had who swore his green van was purple (color-blindness), we tend to believe what we feel, regardless of the facts and opinions of many others.

God help us counselors–the blind trying to teach the blind to see.


Filed under biblical counseling, Guidance and Counseling

2 responses to “Seeing through the glass darkly

  1. I have noticed one thing about the two polarities of underestimating and overestimating our effect on others – they both result from self-centeredness. Those who underestimate their flaws tend to think that they are greater than others. Those who overestimate their flaws tend to think they need to be punished for their sins so they heap up guilt onto themselves. Most people seem to exhibit both of these defects. The solution is twofold: devote ourselves to honestly appraising ourselves (and being neither lenient nor overly harsh on ourselves) and pursuing the knowledge of God (embodying the characteristics of our holy, loving God). By doing this we can develop a healthy self-awareness as well as a God-centeredness that will shape our identities for good.

  2. Agreed. Notice that pride is at the heart of both over and underestimating ourselves. Pride drives us to want to make self bigger and higher than it should be. Low Self-esteem may not feel like pride, but it is just the same. Now, I do think that some have a very hard time with self and God appraisal (something, btw, Calvin thought was the heart of true Christianity), because their abilities to do so have been distorted by the messages of those around them.

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