Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with life coach Brad Denham and he was sharing with me four mindsets that radically limit us. His area of expertise is peak performance and his coaching focus is on winning your inner game. As I listened to Brad I realized that what he was describing had huge spiritual implications. He was describing self-deceptive behaviors that I have seen myself trapped by numerous times. Specifically, Brad discussed with me rationalizing, complaining, blaming, and judging. Covering all four of these in one post and doing them any justice isn’t realistic. So, I am going to address them over a series of posts. I’ll be bouncing back and forth between this topic and the prayer journaling that I am doing with the youth at our church.
Brad used the word “excuses” in our conversation but after our discussion we both felt “rationalizing” was a more fitting word. Namely, because I once heard it said that when you rationalize you are telling yourself rational lies. The self talk you are doing in your head is rational in that it makes total sense to you. The only problem is it’s not true. So why would you lie to yourself? Rationalizing is a way to deceive yourself into believing that what you are doing is right. It is a strategy for living in denial of sin. It is a strategy to absolve yourself of guilt or any personal responsibility for your actions.
I am reminded of a story a counselor friend of mine once told me about a couple he was counseling for marital problems. The husband was having an affair. At one point in the counseling session the husband turned to his wife and passionately asserted, “But honey, I am a hundred percent committed to both of you.” He could not see or hear how ludicrous the comment was coming out of his mouth. He had lived in the lie so long he believed it.
Stacks of Lies
The big lies we live are often not single lies but complex stacks of little lies culminating in a sick mindset. Take for example the husband above. He didn’t come to a mindset of being “a hundred percent committed to both of you” overnight. I suspect he took small actions steps that he excused or justified that progressed into a full blown affair. Perhaps, it began with flirtatious comments excused as just joking around. May be a kiss or some touch occurred that was inappropriate and he told himself, “As long as no one finds out, there is no harm.” Or, “I’ll just do it this once and it will never happen again.” Overtime the seemingly little lies and indiscretions mount into a sick lifestyle.
Knocking Over the Stack
So how do we dismantle the stacks? In short:
- Identify a problem area–What is an area of your discipleship that is lacking right now?
- Identify your excuses–What would you say to someone if they asked you why you aren’t doing something about it right now?
- Recognize the lie beneath the excuse and admit it?–How is your excuse a rational lie? What about your excuse isn’t true?
- Live in the truth by stacking small action steps based on truth–What is the truth? What change do you need to make if you aren’t going to continue that living in that lie or excuse? What is one small step you can take right now?