Category Archives: self-deception

Pastoral sexual abuse training

Today, Diane Langberg and I provide a 3 hour presentation entitled: Pastoral Sexual Abuse: Trends, Challenges, Issues & Treatment. Click here (#14 on the list) for presentation slides (ppt format). The presentation covers issues such as “the setup” that leads some pastors to abuse parishioners, the impact on the various parties, victim related interventions, offender related interventions, as well as focus on the kind of issues counselors run into when either counseling various parties or consulting with the local church going through such sufferings.

Along with the slides, we will also pass out a tiny print decision tree for those who like to have a visual for what needs to be done (see link above for that item as well). I’m still playing around with this and could add things like communication with media, interactions with legal team and notification to law enforcement if abuse of minors has taken place.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, church and culture, pastors and pastoring, self-deception, Uncategorized

Apologies revisited: Heard a good one lately?

Public, direct, and heartfelt apologies are difficult…and rare.

I’ve written here numerous times about apologies and repentance. I find public apologies very interesting, especially by those who can afford to pay someone to help them “get it right.” Last week I listened to a public figure hold a press conference after his conviction for DUI. This person has a lot of money and access to all of the best “coaches”. And yet, his apology was all about himself. Asked what he learned? “I learned that life is full of second chances and I got one.” Now, that could mean that he realizes that he was protected from killing someone with his car. He avoided ending his career. Or, it could mean something far less than remorse. Really, his “apology” was all about himself.
Here’s my question to readers: Have you witnessed or experienced a “home run” apology? What made it so? What features were present? How did you know it wasn’t merely learning the right words? Did you ever think you received a real heartfelt apology only to discover later it wasn’t?

In “Machete Season” (book about Rwandan “killers”), one victim gives one requirement:

“If killers come to church to pray to God on their knees, to show us their remorse, I cannot pray either with them or against them. Real regrets are said eye to eye, not to statues of God.” (p. 163)


Filed under conflicts, Cultural Anthropology, News and politics, Repentance, self-deception

Final thoughts on roots of evil

Well not really. Just that I posted on Tuesday that I would add a few more thoughts on this topic. On Sunday, Terry Traylor preached on the last verse of Judges and the first part of Matthew 21. You can hear it here. In his sermon he gave a nice summary of the book of Judges and the cycle we find in it:

1. The people stop dealing with sin, begin to flirt with it
2. God gives them over to their desires. He lets them have what they demand.
3. The people slowly recognize the problem, take a long time to do something about it, but finally call to the Lord for help.
4. God raises up a protector/deliverer.
5. God provides a period or rest and safety

Unfortunately, the cycle repeats itself. Except for one small problem: the cycle is broken when the people fail to cry out to God for help but keep going on their way. We could call it the “butterfly effect.” When the people fail to get rid of the idols but accept forms of syncretism, then it allows temple workers (Levites) to make it okay to have a concubine in the first place. He doesn’t protect her when some rapists come his way. He shows her no concern after her rape. She dies and he doesn’t give her the decency of a burial but sends her body parts to the 12 tribes and tells only the part that makes others look bad. And ultimately this butterfly effect ends with thousands dead in a civil war and innocent women stolen and subjected to forced marriages. All because everyone did right in their own eyes.

It would seem that this is part of the problem in Rwanda. You have a rather religious/Christian population that flirts with hatred and jealousy of the other, turns a blind eye to neighbors doing violence to others and ends up with civil strife and genocide.

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Filed under Abuse, Biblical Reflection, conflicts, deception, self-deception, sin

Some more thoughts on the roots of evil

Continuing my reading about the tragedies in Rwanda, I’m now following the writer Jean Hatzfeld–thanks to my colleague Carol King. He has written a few books on the genocide in an attempt to give voice to both surviving victim and killer. “Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak” is a chilling mix of interview of 10 “killers” from the district south of the capital and background information

[FYI, for those following this blog for some time, my trip to Rwanda has been delayed until at least July. Pray that it happens then!].

For most of the world, Rwanda was a quiet, tiny country that exploded into Tutsi genocide in 1994 after their Hutu president was assassinated. One day it is calm, the next an entire population of Hutus begin systematically destroying their Tutsi neighbors. Even soccer teammates killed each other, with no remorse.  

But dig a little and you find out that this is not so. Despite living and working together, Hutus (the majority) felt the minority Tutsis (treated as the upperclass by Europeans in the formation of Rwanda) had too much power. Much radio and media did comic portrayals about the killing of cockroaches (the Tutsis). Apparently, they were so funny that even the Tutsis listened and laughed.

It looks like this is what happened:

1. Conflict between groups, fanned by leadership (read pp 52-58 for how it happened).
2. Use of both comic discussions of killings plus occasional actual killings going unpunished
3. Lots of free beer, food (many ate meat every day when normally they only ate it at weddings), and promises of rewards
4. Threats of violence to Hutus if they do not follow outsiders orders. These outsiders “apprenticed” farmers into killers.
5. A large group involved (100% involvement) with lots of camraderie so as to defuse guilty feelings.
6. A simple task ordered: kill.
7. The abandonment by the white individuals in the country and so gave the sense that the world didn’t care and wouldn’t hold them accountable.

This is quite a chilling book (because thus far there is no apology or blameshifting in the book by those being interviewed). Here’s one especially difficult passage:

For my part, I offer you an explanation: it is as if I had let another individual take on my own living appearance, and the habits of my heart, without a single pang in my soul. This killer was indeed me, as to the offense he committed and the blood he shed, but he is a stranger to me in his ferocity. I admit and recognize my obedience at that time, my victims, my fault, but I fail to recognize the wickedness of the one who raced through the marshes on my legs, carrying my machete. That wickedness seems to belong to another self with a heavy heart. The most serious changes in my body were my invisible parts, such as the soul or the feelings that go with it. Therefore I alone do not recognize mysefl in that man. (p. 48)

Tomorrow I will post one more on this topic: the pattern of running away from and then back to the Lord as seen in Judges. Or, how we stop seeing our sin and forget to cry out to God.


Filed under conflicts, Cultural Anthropology, Rwanda, self-deception

Expectations and the will

We’ve been thinking a bit about expectations this week. Now, when our expectations fail to be met, we have a couple of less than optimal options;

1. Slide toward despair and anger. A passive response to not getting what we hoped for.

2. Find new ways to get what we expect or want (and, if necessary, justify our actions in case others think we are selfish).

On this second point, my pastor preached last Sunday on Judges 18 (The tribe of Dan looking for a reason to take a land not offered them by God). He listed several ways (tongue in cheek) we can become good syncretists (having the appearance of Christianity but operating on unbiblical principles). They are worth repeating as we may find that we actively seek to justify willful behavior so that we get what we want. I don’t have his list in front of me so I’m going on memory here:

1. Start going after what you want but then on the way ask God if he’s going to bless what you are doing

2. When you get an answer, be sure to read any ambiguity as supporting your own interests. Don’t consider that the person telling you that God is favoring you might be off his rocker (the priest was not following the Law because he was allowing Micah to have idols as well).

3. When you see that you can be successful at grabbing something not yours, assume that success means that God is in it. Assume might makes right.

4. If a better deal comes along (the priest or seeming success of Micah and his idols), assume the better deal is a good idea and grab all you can.

My pastor did a better job with these and I’m not doing justice here to his creativity but I do find that it is so easy for me to justify my expectations, find ways to fulfill them–even if I know God is not in it. Some examples I see from others:

1. Justifying rage towards children because they are rebellious

2. Justifying sexual sin because God wants me to be happy

3. Justifying overeating/undereating because celebration is good/too many people overindulge

4. Justifying withholding love because others aren’t doing their fair share

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, Cognitive biases, conflicts, deception, Desires, Psychology, self-deception, Uncategorized

Jack Miller on repentance (again)

If you haven’t seen Jack Miller’s little book on repentance I encourage you get ahold of the new edition published by CLC publications (2009). The cost is under 8 dollars! Jack Miller wrote the first edition in 1975 under the title, “Repentance and the 2oth Century Man”. This one, entitled: Repentance: A Daring Call to Real Surrenderalso includes a foreward by Andree Seu (World Magazine) and an epilogue by Miller’s widow, Rose Marie.

Here’s why I find this little book very helpful. It clarifies the subtle but oh-so-important differences between true repentance and penance; between true repentance and regret. It reminds us that repentance is a daily moment-by-moment attitude but is not something that is full of shame and morose feelings. 

As someone who works with Christians struggling with addictive patterns, I find one of the greatest challenges is to help clients move from penance to repentance and from guilt to freedom. This book ought to help with both.   

For those unfamiliar with Jack’s legacy, he started New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside (my church) and out of that church a number of other churches were planted as well as the founding of World Harvest Missionwhich has 170 missionaries now in 15 countries–including Uganda where missionaries were intimately involved in the care of those suffering through last year’s ebola outbreak.

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Filed under addiction, biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Evangelicals, self-deception, sin

Inside adulterous love: “It’s all about me!”

There’s no denying that forbidden love lust generates massive pleasure–even if it leads to equally massive despair, guilt, and/or destruction. If it didn’t, few would allow an affair to develop and continue risking all that is dear to them (respect, trust, family, friends, even job). Like heroin, the pleasure within adultery screams to be experienced again. Often those caught up in this kind of pleasure feel they have found their soul mate, their completion as a person. But let’s take a look at this “love” for a moment and the lies told.

1. “You complete me.” Sounds like it is a compliment to the other, right? Nope. It is all about how the speaker feels. That is the focus. Very self-indulgent.

2. “I can’t wait to be with you again.” Again, the focus is on what you do to me.

3. “You get me.” Ditto #1 and 2.

The funny thing is, if you were to remove the “love” phrases being bantied back and forth in an affair from their context, you see how self-focused the expressions of pleasure and satisfaction are despite the pretense of care for the other. But both parties delude themselves that it is real love as long as the “drug” lasts. As long as both feel that the other exists to bring them pleasure it feels like mutual love.


Filed under adultery, deception, love, Relationships, self-deception, Sex

Why we give hollow confessions

On a way too regular basis we observe others making apologies and/or confessions for wrongs done. This morning in my house, my one son hurt the feelings of the other and in working through the problem he made his apology under our direction. Not to be outdone, the other son wasn’t truthful about the situation and so later he too made a directed apology (aka, highly encouraged, but not forced).

Have you noticed that these kinds of apologies, whether from a ten year old or a 50 year old, ring hollow? It is easy from our stand point to concur that they don’t really mean what they say.

I think, in general, that this assessment isn’t accurate. Here’s why.

To hurt another; to do something for ourselves at the cost of others requires that we divorce empathy and self, reality and fantasy. So, when we do apologize, we cannot quickly reconnect these parts. Often the person does feel bad, guilty, afraid of the consequences. Notice that these feelings are rather self-centered. In time, if they go about reconnecting care for others and their feelings, they will feel much more empathy and concern for the wounded party. However, at the outset of their confession, these two things are still divorced. Thus the hollow confession. They do not know what they are really apologizing for beyond a few facts. The longer the deception, the longer the disconnection and time taken to reconnect to the experience of the other.

There are other confounding variables that hinder empathic confessions. One’s goal (get out of trouble, stop the pressure, smooth it over, please the other) may also decrease the likelihood empathy.

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Filed under Christianity, conflicts, deception, Repentance, self-deception, sin

Great illustration of the strength of addiction

Am reading CS Lewis’ The Silver Chairagain (my least favorite of the Narnia chronicles). If you’ve not read it, it tells the story of the King Caspian’s son, Prince Rilian, and his escape from the underworld by the help of two British children and a Marshwiggle. Prince Rilian has been captured by a witch who keeps him insane and believing that he was rescued by her and that she will put him on a throne soon in the overworld. He stays sane except for an hour when he is bound to a silver chair at which point he comes to and know who he is and that the evil witch murdered his mother.

The children and the marshwiggle help him escape the chair while he is sane. He turns on the chair with a sword and shreds it to pieces. At that moment, he has all the clarity of sane thinking and sees reality as it really is. But moments later, the witch returns and begins to cloud his mind with a soothing music, voice and something thrown on the fire. Within minutes they begin to doubt the truth and believe that what is bad is good and what is good is only a fantasy. They disbelieve Aslan, the sun. The Overworld is fantasy and the underworld is the true world.

Now, this story is not about addiction but it reminded me how quickly we can move from seeing the abomination of an addictive habit to beginning to believe it might not be so bad. The addict “repents” from the consequences of their action only to fall right back because the siren song has their number.

Do you notice this in your life about irritability, rage, jealousy, substances, food, internet sex? It doesn’t have to be a traditional addiction, just something that we find ourselves telling (to ourselves) those sweet little lies.


Filed under addiction, christian counseling, christian psychology, Desires, self-deception, sin

God’s response to a people addicted to evil

Later this week I’ll be speaking at CCEF’s Annual Conference about addiction (more to come on that tomorrow) and so lately I’ve been thinking about sin and addiction.

It is common for Christian folk stuck in repetitive sin to move away from God. Why? There are a variety of reasons but often they include overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame, and a desire to fix the problem through some sort of penance. But when individuals suffer from being sinned against, they are much more likely to go to God and talk to him about it.

With that in mind, I went to church yesterday and heard a sermon by our pastor on Judges 4-5 (The Deborah/Barak/Sisera story). And Pastor Traylor made this point,

Israel brought their oppression on themselves by their own idolatry. Yes, the king of Caanan was the oppressor but the cause was their own foolishness and evil inclination. What do they do? It seems that after 20 years of oppression, they cry to the Lord and he provides, yet again, a rescuer. This pattern is evident throughout Scripture but nowhere clearer than in the book of Judges. Sinners return to God, cry out for mercy and rescue, and God hears and delivers.

What if we were to cry out for deliverance much quicker? When we are righteously suffering it seems easy to do. But when we know we have fallen away, we find it much harder.

Do you suffer from the consequences of repetitive sin? Turn to God the second after to seek his deliverance. Continue that pattern (in an honest fashion) and you will discover that God provides the way of escape BEFORE you give in to that temptation.

We need to beat it into our heads that God wants us to turn to him even when we sin. The illustrations are numerous that we are loved by a pursuing God. Unfortunately, we also see that we are very committed to covering up our brokenness. Let us remember it is a losing battle. We will not be able to cover up for ever…

May God have mercy and deliver us from evil.


Filed under addiction, biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Desires, self-deception