Self-Deception – Creating a Virtual Reality

“It’s all gone,” said my toddler daughter as she held up her bowl at dinner.

Surprised that she was finished already, I looked in the bowl. She most certainly was not done. She had barely started. Her self-delusion was rooted in her desire for the cookie that might come at the end of her meal. In her mind, if she stated that all the food was gone, it must be so. She didn’t like the fact that she had food to finish, so she invented her own virtual reality where she was all done.

Self-delusion is a pervasive human trait, and all of us, at one time or another, have engaged in it. What delineates a normal person from a toxic person, however, is the ability to identify this in ourselves and root it out. When people lose all contact with truth and conscience, terminal self-delusion results.

Many of us know someone who suffers from such self-delusion. They wreak havoc in relationships, because they are not willing to hear from anyone around them regarding the reality of their shattered relationships. These people insist on wearing their warped glasses–glasses that create a reality that comports with their own prideful perceptions, but has nothing to do with what really is going on.

One of the hallmarks of such a person is isolation. While they may have many people in their lives, they are close to none. Anyone within close proximity is required to take on their own distorted version of reality or risk being rejected. Many simply steer clear of these people for anything other than utilitarian purposes.

So what are some clues that indicate someone is self-deceived?

In a multitude of counselors, Scripture says, there is safety. If you are ignoring what most of your caring family is telling you when they say there is a problem, you may be living in self-delusion. If you are alienated from most of those around you, insisting the whole time that everyone else is the problem, it’s time for some honest self-analysis.

There’s an apt (if well-worn) illustration of the farmer who complained to his wife repeatedly that the house smelled like the barnyard. He went from room to room looking for the source of the stench, railing at his wife about her shoddy housecleaning. His wife gently pointed out to him that perhaps it was the manure on his mustache that was causing the problem. A self-deluded man is one who would argue with the wife and continue to complain about the stench problem, even when the real source was pointed out, clearly and unmistakably. You can erect an alternate reality, but the stench in your life won’t be eradicated until you identify the source of the problem.

The life of self-delusion is a sad one. Telling yourself something over and over does not make it so. It is the mental equivalent of getting in your car and driving into a brick wall. Repeatedly. If in pride we resist the truth tellers God has put around us, eventually we are given over to a mind that can no longer even take in the truth. That is a frightening place none of us should ever want to be.

Healing and reconciliation can only take place in relationships when real humility causes the scales to drop from pride-filled eyes and the love of God warms hearts long-hardened into stone. It’s important to remember that we cannot change someone else’s self-delusion. But when we encounter someone like this, we can pray for something to break through their self-imposed blindness, and take careful note about the destructive consequences of pride.

10 thoughts on “Self-Deception – Creating a Virtual Reality

  1. Jean Selden says:

    I find this post especially sad to read. Our society is so filled with delusional people living their “own truth” that it seems it is at an epidemic level. It used to be that I could take people at their word. Now I don’t even believe anyone until I see that what comes out of their mouths is translated into their actions.

    I have two twenty something nieces that cannot receive truth at all because they have built their own little worlds of what is right and wrong. The saddest thing is their outspoken love for God coupled with lying, stealing, sexual immorality, partying and the like.

    I agree totally that talking to them is fruitless. Outside a complete heart circumcision by the Holy Spirit, their souls are destined for damnation.

    Let us not grow weary in our praying for these lost souls.

    In Him,

  2. carolynb says:

    You have just described my mother. And I fear for her just what you said, that if a soul keeps going in this frightening direction, destruction is inevitable.

    By the way, in her blame shifting, I take the brunt of the accusations. Apparently it’s all my fault. Sigh.

  3. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    I once knew a woman like this. Early sinful patterns in thinking never get addressed and become entrenched — a way of life. The sin gets so deep, the darkness in these people eventually swallows them up. She died having missed out on so much in her life from those who cared about her. Her denial of reality became catastrophic when she denied her need for medical care. She lost years of her life because of her insistence on her own way and her refusal to listen to others who could have helped. It’s truly terrible to watch, and the only redemptive thing to come out of these situations is determination by those watching to embrace humility and honesty by God’s grace so we don’t make the same mistake.

  4. carolynb says:

    I pray fervently that Christ will cut through my mom’s pride before it’s too late. You are right, healing and reconciliation cannot take place until God brings the humility in the deceived soul.

    Thanks Ingrid for sharing the wisdom God has given you and for being willing to discuss such difficult things. You have ministered to many souls, mine included.

  5. Carol says:

    Ingrid, I have known people like this and it is truly sad. In their denial of the truth they are emotionally and spiritually abusive to others. Praying for them is all we can do. Prayer shows that we have forgiven them although that forgiveness does not automatically lead to reconciliation if they are still unhealthy and too toxic for a relationship. There may be a need to have a limit to interacting with them.

  6. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Pride-distorted glasses turn reality upside down so that in the twisted mind of the self-deceived, godly family members become “prodigal” for daring to disagree, those who raise biblical objections to something become “mentally unstable” and “sick” by their definition. Satan is responsible for making good appear evil and evil appear good. Satan is the author of pride. Connect the dots.

  7. Carol says:

    Yes, pride, deception and lies all come from satan. Two Christian books that have greatly helped me to deal with this in my family of origin and also in my church families (unfortunately it is there as well) are Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend and Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue. It is such a comfort to know that the Lord sees all and knows and understands all that we go through. Psalm 35 and Psalm 27(esp. verse 10) have been comforting. Praise Him, for He came to set the captives free!

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