Painting in your good clothes and other self-deceptions

“Hi, I’m Phil and I have a confession to make: I paint in my good clothes.”

I live in a one hundred year old house where plaster walls crumble and where 2 active boys do things that cause the woodwork and doors to chip. So, routinely, I need to break out the paint and touch up holes and chips. This weekend, I needed to fix an area (approximately 1.5 feet by 3 feet) of plaster. Once the plaster was repaired, I needed to paint. I went to the basement, found a dropcloth (something I don’t always use), a brush, a stirrer, a screwdriver, and the paint and was soon back upstairs with brush in hand ready to paint. Within a few minutes, I was done the job.

Leaning back and admiring my work, I looked down and caught a glimpse of a few paint specks on my jeans. Looking a bit more, I found a smudge of paint on my pull-over–the good one I wear to work. Painting in my good clothes? What was I thinking to do something so foolish?

Some things ought to be obvious. Don’t poke a hornets’ next. Don’t drink and drive? Don’t air your dirty laundry on Facebook for all to see. Don’t take racy pictures of your self on your smart phone. And, don’t paint in your good clothes.

Funny thing, we do lots of things that we really know we ought not to do. But even more funnier…we do these things again even after prior epic fails. In essence, we don’t learn from our mistakes.  

Why is this the case? Why do we fail to grasp the obvious in the midst of our decisions? Why does our common sense fail us when 2 seconds of thinking will enable us to predict what will and what won’t turn out well. We overeat and gain weight. We gossip and ruin relationships. We cover up failures with lies and lose trust. We cheat and suffer with silent guilt and shame. We paint in our good clothes and ruin them.

Here’s a couple of reasons why we do these things:

1. We lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves we have it all under control. We won’t make any mistakes. We’ll be careful. No one will know.

2. We cut corners to get the things we want. We want satisfaction now so we post on Facebook what we are feeling without considering the consequences. We want to finish painting so we can do something more pleasurable and so we don’t change clothes.

3. We fail to identify the core problem after we’ve made a mistake. The main reason we don’t seem to learn well from our past mistakes is that we often only regret the outcome rather than come to grips with the source of our impulsive behavior.

I feel badly that I got paint on my pullover. But, do I understand that the reason I did so is because I have a habit of trying to complete tasks as quickly as possible–laziness–rather than a habit of doing a job the right way.


Filed under christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, Psychology, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Painting in your good clothes and other self-deceptions

  1. Also, I would add that we repeat behaviors that we have failed in because sometimes we get away with it. For example, my husband has been after me to come to a complete stop at stop signs. The other day, we were close to having a small impact with another vehicle because of my behavior. Yet most of the time, I yield rather than stop and nothing bad happens. In fact, it seems almost better to me because I zoom away more quickly than if I had fully stopped (or so I tell myself). But Christ has called us to obedience every time because He knows the potential for damage is there. Thank God for His grace & also for Him providing those times of “wake up calls.” If only we’d stop hitting “snooze!”

  2. Brooke

    Wonderful…..and humbling looking in the mirror .

  3. We have to be careful so as to learn the appropriate things from these idiotic repeats in our lives so that sanctification can happen. But as the Puritans would say, sanctification is the evidence of reconciliation, and I am praising Jesus that He doesn’t reject me from reconciliation even when I’m a broken record. (It’s a fine balance, no?)

    • I was just reading Psalm 51 (the Message translation):
      “I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down…enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.”

      That’ll do the trick.

  4. Henk Van Dooren

    Simple truths, and quite profound.

  5. Carm

    Hey Phil-

    Long time since I commented, but I’m still reading and enjoying the blog. Just wanted to know (on an unrelated topic) if there’s any way to remove my last name from previous posts. In an effort to not be very “Google search-able” I Googled my name and previous comments on your blog are the top searches that come up! Can we do anything about this?



  6. marilynn thornburg grimm

    I love your website ! I read every word you write. I can’t even paint my fingernails without a drop-cloth.

    I just read recently that TRADITION is another excuse for laziness! For example” but Mom, no one in the family one makes the Christmas cookies as well as you.” Well maybe it’s time someone learned!

    I was born running and talking. I was also born to be a caregiver and I am an emotional woman.

    I am getting older and simply can’t do eveything I once did! I am learning to say “NO” politely and gently so as to be a good representtive for Christ!!! Not everyone is happy about that but my creator is proud of me!!!

  7. Karen

    This reminded me of an article I read a while back – leading me to dig through my large basket of “interesting articles”. In Sept. of 2008 ScienceDaily had an article titled “Learning from Mistakes Only Works After Age 12, Study Suggests”. The article suggests that younger children respond far more to reward than punishment including the consequences to their own mistakes. But as an adult – how do you reward yourself every time you DON’T do something stupid?!

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