Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; hold to that which is good.—Romans 12:9
The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. Having no respect, he ceases to love, and…can be more easily offended than anyone.—Fyodor Dostoevsky
Before we can speak the truth in love to our neighbors we have to be willing to face the truth ourselves. I don’t mean that we can come to complete knowledge of the truth in our solitude. I simply mean that we need not to lie to ourselves, not to flinch away from truths that make us uncomfortable.
I know I am often guilty of self-deception. I never acknowledge that I am setting out to deceive myself, but there are moments when I feel a chill of recognition and deliberately choose to distract myself rather than looking at what I have recognized. I’m not talking about a large and dreadful secret but about little things. Perhaps I am upset by someone else’s thoughtless words or actions and suddenly become aware that I have spoken or acted in the same way. Perhaps I begin to see a flaw in the reasoning behind a cherished opinion, or a possible problem in my preferred way of doing some task.
Whatever I refuse to see hurts me in two ways. I miss information which I might need. I also become defensive in the presence of other people, afraid that they will see what I have chosen not to. I waste energy worrying about what they will think of me. I may try to deal with this by avoiding disagreements with them, swallowing my own opinion so the other person will like me enough to not notice what I am hiding, or anyway enough to forgive me for it. Or I may become touchy and quarrelsome, pointing out the other person’s problems before they can point mine out. I am no longer able to disagree with them honestly, simply and constructively.
When I stop lying to myself, when I admit the truths I would rather not know, both to myself and to the people around me, I am freed of my worries. I return to being able to love the other person sincerely and accept their love. I am able once again to enter into conflict and disagreement honestly and lovingly, in a way that can strengthen us both.