Lesson 93: Dont kid yourself

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.

Edward White Benson

You know how we keep talking about your ability to control your own thoughts and attitudes? Well, this is the dark side of that concept.

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Dishonesty requires two parties: one person telling the lie and the other believing the lie. The believer may believe because she has no reason not to or perhaps because she wants to believe.

Victims of domestic abuse often fall into this category. The abuser feels remorse after beating his wife, so he promises never to do it again. Even though the victim has heard this particular lie many times before, and even though she has seen repeated evidence that he wont stop, she wants to believe him and so she does.

In this case, the victim is buying into two lies: the one told by the abuser, and the one she tells to herself. She believes, even though she knows its not in her interest to do so.

Thats what makes it so hard to be honest with yourself you want to believe the lie. If the victim were to be honest with herself, she would know the abuse will be repeated. With that clear understanding, she could seek some way to get out of her situation and begin the process of creating a new life.

Self-deception doesnt take place only in the context of abuse, of course. We fool ourselves all the time, in matters both big and small. Maybe you think youll be able to complete five tasks in the next hour, when youll really be lucky to complete two. You tell yourself that you have plenty of time to get ready for an appointment, and then youre surprised when you get there late. You think that youd be truly happy if you could just get a new job or promotion.

You see, you have to use your ability of controlling your own thoughts judiciously, because it cuts both ways. You can use it for your benefit in choosing your attitude, for example or to your detriment. The trick is to recognize which is which.

Be candid with yourself. Ask yourself, If I were an objective observer and knew everything I know, would I believe what Im telling myself? Then, as you answer, fight the urge to lie to yourself with your reply.

Excerpted from The Graduates Book of Practical Wisdom: 99 Lessons They Cant Teach in School by C. Andrew Millard, published by Morgan James Publishing, available in bookstores and online. &opy; 2008 by C. Andrew Millard; all rights reserved. For more information visit www.wisegraduate.com.