Self-Awareness

Why is it so hard for us to be self-aware?

I am always amazed sometimes at how ignorant we all are when it comes to pointing the finger at ourselves. If you believed us, there’s really no sin in any of us. It’s always someone else’s fault. Either that, or the circumstances in which we find ourselves are at fault. It’s no longer “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” but “the devil, the others around me, and my circumstances” that completely accounts for my “failures” (heaven forbid we should use the word “sin”).

I see this blinkered existence in countless people, especially when they’re called on something that they’ve done wrong. What is always the reaction? “You’re unloving,” “If you hadn’t done this first, then I wouldn’t have responded this way,” “God made these circumstances the way they are, and I couldn’t help myself,” etc. Blame-shifting. Never mind the fact that no one and nothing outside of ourselves can force us to do any sinful act. The most that can be said is that other people and/or our circumstances provide the opportunity for temptation. The sin comes ONLY from our own hearts.

But we are born casuists. A casuist is another name for someone who is spectacularly good at finding loopholes. It was said of W.C. Fields while on his deathbed that he was frantically reading the Bible. One of his friends asked him what he was doing, and he replied, “Looking for loopholes.” Well, I’m here to say that the law of God doesn’t have any loopholes. It skewers us no matter how hard we try to squirm out of its grip. The only answer is to acknowledge our skeweredness and put our trust and confidence in the One Who was skewered for us (literally).

But what I really want to address is our attitude towards our own sin, and what our reaction is to when it is uncovered. Usually, our reaction is plainly due to the fact that we were found out, and that our mask was stripped off of us. No more. We usually aren’t that sorry for the actual sin committed. We aren’t sorry that we’ve offended God. We’re like the kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and who says “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” desperately, in order to avoid the punishment. He isn’t sorry at all that his hand was in the cookie jar. He was sorry he got caught. He (and we also) want sin without sin’s consequences. But when our sin is exposed, we need to be thankful. There is that joy that comes from the relief of not having the guilt of that sin rotting away in our bones. There is a relief of purity. If only we could think of that when we are confronted. I am convinced sanctification could be a bit easier if we take that attitude, rather than be offended when our hypocrisy is revealed for all to see.

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7 Comments

  1. Dawn Bornemann said,

    August 13, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Dear Lane,
    You are right on here, but I would add this. I have come to see that pride is the biggest sin of all. When I do have the fortitude to hate a temptation before it turns into sin in my life, then suddenly I am filled with pride at a job well done. Suddenly I feel that I have some extraordinary strength lying within me for I have managed to do right all on my own. Even when I come to hate the temptation of being proud, I end up being proud that I resisted it.
    I see only one cure to this hopeless circle of pride leading to depression, and that is to admit moment by moment that I am a hopless sinner on my way to hell. It is through continual repentance for all of my sins that I can truly partake of the fellowship with God that He is so eager to enjoy with me. All it takes is for me to be humble before Him and admit that I have NO STRENGTH OF MY OWN TO RESIST TEMPTATION!!! Amen?
    Dawn

  2. greenbaggins said,

    August 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I was hearing C.S. Lewis run through my head as I read your post. He talks about this in his wonderful Screwtape Letters, which are a window into how Satan tempts us. They are a collection of letters from a senior tempter demon to a junior tempter demon. To seek to tempt a person to be proud of his own attempts at humility is easy work. So yes, to acknowledge moment by moment that I am a sinner in need of God’s correcting grace is essential. I don’t think that necessarily means that I have to view myself as on the way to hell, if I also recognize that the only way I avoid hell is through the perfect, finished work of Christ.

  3. Paige Britton said,

    August 13, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Here’s the quote — it jumped right into my head, too:

    “Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride — pride at his own humility will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt — and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.” (from Chapter XIV)

    I like that Lewis had the insight to realize that the way out of this cycle is sometimes as simple as a sense of humor.

  4. David Gray said,

    August 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Pastor Keister,

    Excellent post!

  5. Dawn Bornemann said,

    August 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Lane,
    Thanks for posting my comment. I suppose that the Screwtape Letters, which I read in collage 30 years ago, does shape a good deal of my thinking in regards to myself. Last year I had Andrew read it out loud to me for one of his Senior level reading books. HE LOVED IT TOO!!!
    I must have forgotten the sense of humor part. It’s an area where I’ve always been weak, seeing as I began my earthly journey in an abusive home. Humor there was always mocking ME, which really isn’t humor at all. Perhaps you could post about how to develop a healthy sense of humor?
    Don’t think I can budge on the way to hell part, though. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23 adds, “The wages of sin is death.” That includes me.
    Happy Sabbath,
    Dawn

  6. Cally said,

    August 26, 2009 at 3:23 am

    I’m not surprised there is only 5 comments on this post! Great post. It’s been awhile since reading C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. All I can remember about reading it, was that he was wrong in the dialog. I would re-write it somehow, but it’s been so long in the reading. Isn’t that too is prideful wanting to change what someone else wrestles with? I do it all the time. I have a lot to learn. Thanks for the post Lane.

    Thanks for the comments Dawn.

    Cally

  7. Mark Tubbs said,

    September 29, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you so much, Pastor Keister, for this insightful, succinct, and finely-worded post. I printed off a dozen copies for my small group recently. They appreciated it as much as I did, but I wasn’t sure they would, as I attend a church in a denomination where words such as “sin” and “repent” are currently “out.”

    We have bought into the false gospel of self-esteem when humble self-awareness is really what God calls us to.


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