Tag Archives: human behavior

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