Cultural Observation: We Have a Hard Time Looking in the Mirror

“How does anyone muster up the courage to take any soul to task— including his or her own? How dare you assert to anyone that most of our lives are spent in fogs of self-deception? Interestingly, modern secular thought has spent a lot of time probing our resistance to knowing ourselves accurately. Tracing such “resistance” became a staple of serious thought about human nature in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nietzsche, Marx, and the psychodynamic psychologists (Freud, Jung, Adler, existentialists) all agreed that people resist looking in the mirror. They wanted to make honest persons of us all, whatever the blows to our pride and self-satisfaction.

The “masters of suspicion” were brilliant at seeing that we delude ourselves. But they could never agree on what we were avoiding or what the alternative is. They could never answer the crucial question, What exactly is it that we’re all so unwilling to see? Is it perverse sexual impulses? Murderous hostilities? A cosmic dark side in our souls? A craving for power and superiority? A fear of death? The self-serving rationalization and hypocrisy of “civilized” existence? The inequities of wealth, power, and status? Great but godless thinkers disputed each other’s theories; a Christian sees that each was partly right. All these things squirm within our souls. But all the theorists were ultimately wrong because an even darker cinder smolders inside us: “The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccl. 9: 3). What is that referring to?” -David Powlison
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