How Self-Deception Makes Us Monsters

Duguid and Harmon- Joseph Found these words in Iain Duguid and Matthew Harmon’s book, Living in the Light of Inextinguishable Hope: The Gospel According to Joseph. In the section quoted, they focus on Genesis 38 and Judah’s woeful choices:

The level of Judah’s self-deception and blindness is both astonishing and frightening. It is astonishing because, as outside observers, we can see that he is so clearly in the wrong. But it is also frightening because we so naturally do the same thing. Like Judah, we are prone to live in cities of lies–distorted versions of reality, overlaid with a thin layer of our own innocence and self-exoneration. All of us suffer. At some point, we all also suffer from the actions of other people. But what so often happens next is that a legitimate reflex goes into overdrive. It is good to be able to understand that some of the evil that happens to us is outside our control; we are being impacted by the sin of others. Our ability to make a distinction between things that are our own fault and things that come from others is a learned skill. Often children do not yet have that skill. As a result, when something bad happens, such as their parents getting divorced, they assume that they themselves are somehow responsible. However, having recognized that we sometimes suffer because of someone else’s sin, we can twist that knowledge in order to find ways to blame all of our suffering on other people. We can become blind to our own guilt, and that blindness can make the harmful effects of our own sin against others even worse.” Duguid and Harmon, Living in the Light of Inextinguishable Hope, pg. 36

Thankfully, the story of Judah is not ultimately one of failure and deception, but redemption and illumination by God’s grace, but Duguid and Harmon’s words are certainly challenging to read. The issue of self-deception/blindness to sin reminds me of this question from the Westminster Larger Catechism:

“Q.28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befalls us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.”

The price (“punishment”) for putting ourselves at the center of everything is that we must go blind to seeing the world or ourselves as these actually are. Creation is such that we cannot pretend to be the King and still see things truthfully.

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