Posts Tagged ‘denial’


How long? Maybe forever without intervention. Am I living within a mirage? Am I seeing what I want to see instead of what is there? Am I in the simulated reality of some matrix that I cannot readily perceive? Have I allowed myself to believe in a lie? A delusion? How would I know?

Psalm 4:2
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods [lies]? Selah.

I am not the only one. Living in denial is fairly common. And why? Because stepping out of that state denial may mean facing some difficult truths. I’m pretty sure this cannot be done alone. Why would someone in denial stop living that way by choice? No, something would have to happen, some kind of wake up call.

Some common forms of denial manifest in people who are entrenched in addictive lifestyles: everything from drinking to drugs, pornography to hoarding. These habits become the norm.

My daughter was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 18 after we adopted her at almost 16. She was living in a constant state of fluctuating pain. She didn’t know that other people did not hurt when they got out of bed every morning or have aching hands, feet, knees, and back every day. She thought everyone lived with pain but she was merely less tolerant than most. How does one learn how to live without pain when that is all a person has known? Would she even recognize the absence of pain?

Some people live in a fog when it comes to relationships. As a result, they explain away physical, mental, and emotional abuse. The abuser is always sorry, after all; the abuser promises to never do that again; the abuser is a delusion.

Lord, forgive me if I have continued to love the delusion. Open my eyes. Reveal deception, my own and others. Shorten the time of my mistakes; restore to me the years that the locusts have eaten [Joel 2:25a]. Give me understanding and wisdom and courage to confront my demons, my deceptions, my false gods and idols. Selah.

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Who wants to give up anything the body wants or needs? I’ve been investigating the importance of the body as the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and yet, here is old Paul recommending celibacy as a way of walking out “self-control.” Harumph.

I Corinthians 7:1b
It is well [and by that I mean advantageous, expedient, profitable, and wholesome] for a man not to touch a woman [to cohabit with her] but to remain unmarried.

This Pauline letter must be one of the main sources for the Catholic tradition of celibate priests. A few verses later, Paul even spells it out, “I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another.” [vs 7:7]

Is this a good thing? I know that fasting, another form of body denial has its place in devotion. It seems that as we deny the body sustenance, there is more time to look inward to the things of spirit. But this conversation is for those who choose these things, for those who choose to be celibate or choose to fast, or choose to deny themselves in other specific ways.

What about those who have no choice? What about the lonely men and women of this world who desperately want relationship and intimacy with another person? What of the couple who no longer have intimacy due to illness or boredom. What of the poor?

God promises a grace to those who are not in a position to choose. These promises can be seen readily in the beatitudes. They are promises of hope in the midst of great loss and deprivation. These were the people he chose to teach first, to reach first.

What happens for the rest of us who much choose seasons of deprivation? We get a taste, a glimpse of both poverty and grace in this arena.

But I want to remember that Paul also says that each person has his/her special gift from God. The key here is knowing what God wants of me. The point is hearing God’s voice, God’s plan for today, for now. Once, God called me to a long fast and I was so deaf, He made bread taste like garbage before I got the message.

Choosing self-denial for the mere sake of it does nothing special. These times must be part of the true call.

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Opposites. Either I judge others quickly, forgetting I am equally fallen; or, I wash over reality because I want everything to be smooth sailing. (Don’t rock the boat.) Both ways are problematic and reflect denial.

Romans 15:7
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Paul writes that we must accept one another but the acceptance must be based on truth. It’s not about accepting someone as we “wish” he or she might be (eventually) but accepting what is really there. That’s not particularly easy if the person is difficult.

I confess, I withhold a lot of my acceptance of others based on their behaviors. I accept them “up to a point,” but not really. And yet, Christ accepted me right where I was 30 years ago: alcoholic, drug-dependent, crass, slovenly, and immoral. Jesus did not wait until I got my act together or became approachable. I was book smart but Bible naive. I didn’t know I needed a savior. I didn’t believe I needed anyone.

The stories of Jesus show his ability to accept others over and over again. It’s one of the reasons the Pharisees and “teachers of the law” chastised him: eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus allowed himself to touch, listen, and understand others who were immersed in sin but was confident in the Spirit of the Father within to keep him centered and whole. Jesus knew Himself.

Historically, I have been a bit of a chameleon and unconscious mimic. When I lived in the South for a few years, I developed a pretty strong southern accent, just by sheer exposure. When my kids bring home slang from school, I find myself incorporating it into my daily language without effort. I am too much like a sponge.

One of my favorite illustrations of this phenomenon was years ago when I had my first real “day job” in an advertising agency accounting pool back in Chicago. Thirty women sat in rows of desks with calculators and piles of paper. Initially, I was the oddball, the hippie in my colorful clothes and wire-rimmed glasses who mocked those girls for talking every day about their dinners the night before and what they watched on television. A year later, I had become one with them. I was talking recipes, husbands, television soaps, and vacations. I had acclimated and conformed to the daily norm. It was a type of acceptance, but not the one that Jesus proposes.

It’s not about fitting in. It’s about being strong in heart.

Accepting others comes from within. Accepting others, based on truth, requires an honest assessment of oneself first, then others. Accepting others is a kindness, a type of love. Accepting others is inclusive. Accepting others gives permission for that person to simply “be.” Accepting others allows for differences.

Today, I know, I will be challenged to accept others. Keep me centered in order to be fully present in the reality of others. Keep my heart open and yet fully infused with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.

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Fear is a powerful driver. When we are afraid, we may choose to run… or fight… or stand like a deer in the headlights… or just deny anything is happening at all. If nothing is happening, there is no fear. I see now I have chosen denial all along and it has been like a cloud over my life.

Acts 24:25
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

I am a librarian in a small community and I have many responsibilities including service to teens. I try to go to the local high school once or twice a year to talk about good books to read. Just recently, among the books I brought to share with them was a book entitled After by Amy Efaw. This is a disturbing book about a teenage girl who has a baby in her home (alone), wraps the newborn in a black plastic bag, and then discards it in a dumpster. When arrested, she claims she didn’t even know she was pregnant. Before now, I always thought this was absurd.

But, I have discovered this story is not about unwanted teen pregnancy… it’s about denial. The girl was in such denial she could not accept or believe her pregnancy was possible. And of course, once the child was born, the emotional tearing in her spirit was overwhelming. A person in denial will go to extremes even in the face of staggering evidence.

Isn’t this how sin is perpetuated in our lives? Isn’t this how we justify unfaithfulness? Isn’t this how we enter into unhealthy relationships and stay in them? Isn’t this how we drink too much… smoke too much… eat too much? Isn’t this how we rationalize breaking the law? Isn’t this how we put our pain in a box? Isn’t this how we ignore our past and its impact on our actions today? Isn’t this how we get into debt? Isn’t this the seed that births the lie?

Gad, it’s even possible to be in denial about being in denial.

I am not sure where I am going with all this. But I know one thing: I don’t want to live a life of denial anymore. I want the courage to face and walk in truth. I want the freedom that truth can bring to my life. I want self-acceptance.

These are the true roots of joy…. not happiness per se, but joy.

Oh Jesus, as I am on your Way, open my eyes and give me courage.

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Luke 22:55-57
But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

When Peter denied Christ in the courtyard, each denial escalated. First he denied knowing Jesus, then he denied being among the disciples and finally, he even denied being a Galilean. Sometimes, it takes this progression before we encounter the mirror of Christ.

I struggle with bad eating habits every day. As a result, my weight and well being are doing a ying-yang every few weeks. In the end, the culprit is in my head. It’s where the denial starts. I’ll have “one” cookie or “one” piece of candy, then later, I’ll be tired or feel cranky and therefore I “deserve” a treat, perhaps a granola bar (almost healthy) or two and by evening, I might as well have a quesadilla with chips, salsa, and guacamole since I’ve already blown it for the day (dare I mention the late night ice cream snack?).

Another example is my failed commitment to stay in touch with my distant relatives in Estonia and Germany. I have promised to call them and email regularly, but the day comes and goes and the call is not made, the email is not written and soon, so much time has passed that it feels too embarrassing to call or write at all. It’s a vicious cycle really.

This same progression can happen anywhere and anytime. It can happen with our prayer times, our reading, our plans to reach out to others, to attend church, to visit a friend… it doesn’t matter. One denial will lead to another. One lie will create another. One deception will birth another.

We’ll never know what would have happened if Peter had not denied Jesus that fateful night. Peter had projected out what he thought would happen… he feared for his life. How often do we project a false scenario of the future to justify our actions and decisions?

Today, I pray, let me not wait and deny the truth. Give me courage to face my self-betrayals and bring them into the Light of Christ.

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