Integrity and Gymnastics
20 October 2017
A person of integrity is one whose actions and beliefs are aligned with one another. Sounds simple!
But human beings have a capacity for self-deception; hence Jesus today warns his disciples to “be on their guard” against hypocrisy, which the early Christians associated with the Pharisees. Jesus knew the very real risk that his followers could convince themselves that they were living the Gospel when, in secret even from themselves, they had begun to compromise it.
In class this week we studied a psychological phenomenon called Cognitive Dissonance. Psychologists theorise that we are internally motivated to maintain equilibrium between our actions and our beliefs – if we do not, we experience “dissonance” which is uncomfortable. To reduce this dissonance we either change our behaviours or our beliefs. Guess which we change more readily?
Psychologists found that it is far more common for a person to talk themselves out of their beliefs!
We do this either by justifying our actions or altering our moral framework. Our inner monologue when we first breach our own standards might sound like this; “Everyone does this” or “Just once won’t hurt”. Soon it becomes “This requirement is not humanly possible” or “This small transgression will help to achieve a greater goal” or “But we really love each other”.
Jesus tells us today that all of these psychological gymnastics that we engage in will be revealed when everything is “made clear”. Personally, I would rather know now what self-deception I am engaging in, than when I meet Jesus face to face!
Come Holy Spirit; we give you permission to shine light into the dark places within us. You who are the truth, show us the truth. We are not afraid of your searchlight since you reassure us that you know and love us; every hair on our head has been counted. We trust ourselves into your hands.