In my previous post I mentioned that the mission of the church I pastor is to help people find, face, and follow truth. Pastors and counselors are people who deal in truth. Of course one of the main causes of so many of the problems people are dealing with is falsehood — failure to find the truth or, having found it, to face up to its reality or, having faced it squarely, failure to follow the truth wherever it might lead. Often people come into the counseling office because they believe deeply in mythologies about themselves and/or about others. And since what we believe affects how we feel, and how we feel usually determines how we act, we cannot consistently act in productive and healthy ways if we are acting from false beliefs.
This is why denial is such a powerful concept in psychology. Sigmund Freud called denial a “defense mechanism.” I call it one of our default ways of coping with reality: just pretend reality is not real. Ironically, when we pretend reality is not real, we then must live as if unreality is real. (Does it surprise us that there are consequences for this?) At this moment people you love are living in fantasy, unreality, denial (pick your word). It may involve their drinking, or eating. It may involve their approach to managing money. It may involve their philosophy of life. It may involve their closest relationships (including their relationship with you). It may involve their ideas about themselves or God. We can live on multiple levels of falsehood at a time, and that’s true even if we see ourselves as being dedicated to honesty and authenticity. We can also be firmly dedicated to truth in some areas of our lives, and just as firmly planted in falsehood in other areas.
It is not easy to live in truth. At least not in the short-run.