Sunday, July 4, 2010

Denial: Satan’s Seductive Tool

There is an attitude that Satan tries to instill in all of us, and that is the attitude of denying our own responsibility in our lives—a stance called denial. Denial is the desire or ability to occasionally shift responsibility for our problems and ills to someone else, or to some “thing” that has no power in itself. The desire to deny responsibility is so seductive, and so deep-rooted in some of us, that we sometimes cannot see ourselves involved in its process. This is often true even after some of us have been confronted with the truth of a situation and our responsibility related to that particular situation.

Having been granted the right of free will, that of agency, we are answerable to God for how we exercise that right and how we accept responsibility for the choices we make. With free will comes accountability. One major concern of our Heavenly Father is that we become personally responsible for our thoughts, our actions, and how we exercise our agency. Agency is such a critical principle in our eternal salvation that Satan uses all of the insidious means at his disposal to get us to deny our own accountability for the choices we make.

The Fear of Honesty
There are many of us who will consciously say something like, “I know I am accountable,” or, “I’m not afraid of being responsible,” and then subconsciously switch the blame or responsibility of their actions or attitudes to someone else or some situation. Some are afraid of confronting themselves with truth, ending up living with unconscious guilt. Such a person might often be angry, have a tendency to blame, hold grudges, and generally be unhappy because every little thing seems to go wrong for them. They live in the torment of fear with an uncertain future, having very little faith and trust in others around them—sometimes not even trusting those in their own family that love them. Some of these people try to hide this negativity behind a facade of positive attitudes and congeniality, but inside suffer with the subtle torture of discontent.

Not only do we indulge ourselves in denial when it comes to our sins, attitudes, and those smaller things that we may not consider sins, but also in some of our feelings. Some of us often have feelings that we are not willing to admit exist. This is true when we believe those feelings could place us in a position that would be perceived as uncomfortable. Consequently, we become unwilling to accept those feelings; we fail to acknowledge them. Some of us can hide our feelings so well that we are really convinced those feelings do not exist at all. This type of denial only robs us of a more complete existence because we reject and refuse to recognize that which is honest, true, and capable of bringing a more fulfilling life.

Why do some live in such fear, afraid to confront themselves with truth? Is it because they are fearful of being wrong or being put in an uncomfortable or embarrassing position? Is it a threat to their justification for inappropriate behaviors and attitudes? Is it worry over not being what they think others expect them to be? Is it fear of being hurt? Is it concern of being rejected? Is it anxiety about the unknown? Is it pride? The answer could be a big YES to all of the above, and possibly more. Consequently and unfortunately, it is found that such people have very little love or respect for themselves, let alone love for others and love for God. The scriptures tell us: “There is NO FEAR IN LOVE; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John. 4:18.)

It is important to be liked, respected, esteemed, supported, approved of, and generally accepted. It is ironic, however, that many who seek such recognition behave in ways that nullify their own intention. As many seek acceptance, they will often reject anything that others do or say that might reflect badly upon them. By rejection of that which might have been able to encourage growth in a positive way, they start toward the world of denial.

Through denial, or by not accepting the honest intentions of others, we send out a message that we ourselves are beset with a basic dishonesty. By not being willing to be honest with ourselves, and accepting truth, no matter how it hurts, we in turn fall short of the true love and respect we need for ourselves. And since we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:35-39), then it follows that we have very little love for others. Without that love and respect for ourselves we cannot truly love others, let alone God.

A Vision of Lucifer’s Plan
In his interesting book, Guardian Angels, Joseph Heinerman tells of Herr Pettersson, a Swede who had a divine dream concerning the life hereafter and of his guardian angel. In the dream he saw where the devils, those invisible and wicked beings among us here, were being taught their duty by Lucifer. Herr Pettersson’s guardian angel said that the spirits who followed Lucifer were, “... being trained for the final conflict between him and the Son of God, and also for missionary work among the children of men in mortality. Some of them are trained in journalism, some in statesmanship. Some are studying theology, and some are made proficient in all the arts and sciences of warfare ... All are being carefully trained in oratory—the devil’s oratory.”

Herr Pettersson asked, “What kind of oratory is that?”

His guardian angel answered: “That ... is a very difficult art, but one which is highly esteemed in the kingdom of Lucifer. He is the father of it. In its simplest form it is a denial of facts, and nothing more. Even a child can master that part of it. In a higher stage of the art, the devil’s oratory has the ability of proving that black is white, and white is black; that sin is virtue and virtue is sin, and that truth is lie and lie truth ... they prove, by some sort of logical conjurer’s trick, that their wicked deeds and follies were not committed by them, but by those who caught them in the very act. Lately, Lucifer has obtained a large contingent of mortals who have made a specialty of all kinds of lying before crossing the River into this world.” (Guardian Angels, p. 115.)

This brief experience shows an example of how we mortals can be taught to employ the “art” of lying to ourselves through denial (it is an art); by so doing we incorporate the evil of placing guilt upon others rather than accepting responsibility for our own attitudes and behaviors. Consequently, we can be falsely led to believe that all is going well with us when we try and blame others for all of our problems.

Scriptural Example
The first example in history, of denial and of claiming no responsibility for one’s sins, can be found in the book of Genesis. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, God asked Adam, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” It might appear that Adam was denying his responsibility in the matter when he answered, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” So, the Lord confronted Eve, saying, “What is this thou hast done?” Shifting her accountability, Eve responds, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” (See Gen. 3:1-13.)

Although the Lord cursed that old serpent for initially being responsible for the temptation, it did not relieve Adam and Eve of their complicity in the act of transgressing one of God’s laws. God didn’t buy their excuses and the shifting of blame. They were subsequently cast out of the garden of Eden. When one transgresses a law, temporal or spiritual, a penalty must be paid—denial or not. The demands of justice must be met because there are inherent penalties in breaking laws, no matter how justifiable.

Satan knows the power of denial, and he manipulated our first parents with this tool. This method of expressing fear has been a basic staple in the deceptive diet of mankind since man first partook of the forbidden fruit, until the present day.

The Denial of Responsibility
There are many examples that can be found in scripture, but there are also numerous examples that can be found each day in our jobs, families, churches, governments, schools, and even ourselves as we often rationalize our decision making. A further illustration of such denial may be understood in the following little story:

We find a young lady walking home one dark night on a lonely street. A man comes up behind her, puts a knife to her throat and says, “Give me your purse or I’ll kill ya!” The terrified lady hands him her purse, after which he lets her go. She later tells her friends that the thief “made her” give him her purse.

Now, here is a situation that poses an interesting question: Did the thief make the young lady give him the purse? The answer is, No! He did not.

“But,” some might say, “He would have killed her if she didn’t hand it over. She was forced to do it, or else ...”

He may or may not have killed her; that is not the issue. His behavior is not our concern here, neither is the choice the victim made our concern. What is the issue then? The owning up to the responsibility of the decision made by the threatened young lady, that’s the issue.

If the assailant overpowered her, grabbed the purse and ran away with it, or if he killed the lady and took the purse, then she would not have had the opportunity to make a decision. But being overpowered is not the issue either. The issue is the fact that she did have the opportunity to make a decision.

What were her options? The thief did not make her give him her purse; that she decided for herself, probably after a very quick evaluation of the situation. Yes, she might have been killed, but that may also have been the result of her choice. The responsibility for the decision solely rested with her, not the thief. Besides, did she not make the foolish decision to walk alone on a dark street in the first place? Many problems come from decisions made way before the crisis.

Adam was given an option to partake of the forbidden fruit or not to partake of it. If he ate of the fruit, he would die. (Gen. 2:16-17.) In essence, the choice Adam had to make was similar to that which the assaulted young lady had to make. If both made one decision, they would die, and if they chose another, they would live. In Adam’s case he decided to eat of the fruit, which decision brought death into the world. The decision made by the lady confronted with danger, spared her life. We must realize that the “reason” for a decision is not important here. What is important, however, is to realize that we must be responsible for the decision we make whatever the ensuing consequences. God expects accountability, not excuses. And so it is in our personal lives. Other people, such as parents, teachers, supervisors, co-workers, various authorities over us, and even family and friends expect accountability, not excuses.

If the thief was responsible for making the young lady give him her purse then God would be responsible for making Adam partake of the forbidden fruit, which we know was not true.

Many may remember “The Fonz” from the TV series, “Happy Days.” When he made a mistake he never could admit it, or have the intestinal fortitude to say he was wrong. Upon being confronted with his blunders, he became unable to speak. When he finally did say something, he stuttered with, “I ... I ... I can’t say that.” Pride got in the way of his self-evaluation and personal integrity.

A few years before the “Happy Days” series, there was a TV comedian named Flip Wilson who had a popular saying when he did something wrong. He would say, “The devil made me do it.” Though comical in their settings, these statements too often reflect the attitudes of many people. They want to blame their troubles and sins on Satan or someone else. We cannot do that and get away with it. God sees all and knows all. He knows our inner feelings, even if we refuse to recognize them.

It is Lucifer’s evil design to shift blame. He teaches us to cheat ourselves. However, he has no power to force us to do anything. Such choices are ours alone. The old devil is usually blamed for the sins we commit, but if he was the cause of all of our sins, we could not be condemned. But Satan cannot compel us to do evil, we voluntary choose our behavior. What we need to understand is that God does not exert compulsion upon us, and the devil cannot do it.

If he did exert compulsion, he would be responsible for our problems. But he is not. We are! So, through the closing of our minds and hearts, justifying our behaviors, lacking appropriate actions, and denying the Spirit of the Lord, we have relinquished our free will to the control of rationalization. As someone aptly put it: “To rationalize means only to make rational lies.”

Draining One's Energy
When we deny our responsibility in life, we have a tendency to continually seek help from others, they eventually become weary because nothing they do for us seems to help us. We don’t take their advice seriously, thinking that our problem is special, and we are the only one with it. Those from whom we seek help eventually become impatient and try to avoid us when they see us coming. Because of their seeming lack of caring for our “special” situations, we have a tendency to blame them for our chronic problems. But we really can’t blame them, for we are the ones that love to feel bad and want others to feel bad for us. We feel sorry for ourselves and seem to get a lot of mileage out of having others feel sorry for us. Because of this negative attention, we don’t take therapy seriously, and continue the “poor pity-me” program. Therefore, we have to blame someone else instead of accepting the responsibility ourselves. When we blame someone else we are trying not to feel guilt. If we do not feel guilt, we find no need to repent. And when there is no repentance there is no forgiveness, and, consequently, no blessing of eternal lives.

Now I don’t mean to be unkind, insensitive, or uncaring at this point; on the contrary, I believe and hope that my nature is to be quite understanding and compassionate. But perhaps, the reader is aware of those who are constantly ill, in need of financial help, attention, or something. They often appear to be distressed in one way or another; bad things continually seem to be happening to them. And no matter how you try to help them, it appears to do them little good. Their negativity eventually begins to drain the energy and resources of those around them. Soon, people begin to ignore them or try hiding from them. Though they may have legitimate problems at times, everyone considers them paranoid, incompetent, a hypochondriac, or just plain bothersome.

I have discovered, during my time as a Behavioral Therapist, that one of the possible problems with this type of individual is that they might be focusing too much upon themselves instead of upon God and those around them. Many of these people are sweet spirited, very kind, and can even be quite religious. But they often appear to be sucking from other people instead of giving. They tend to feel that their problem is unique; it’s theirs, they own it, and they have a right to keep it. It’s the I want—I need—you give approach to life instead of the you need—I have—I give. However, focusing upon others instead of self is not only a form of therapy, but also a form of repentance. It is exercising faith in Jesus who is the only one who can solve problems and heal wounds. It is not blaming others for our ills or draining their energy.

Yes, there are those who do spend a lot of time and energy being concerned about others. They care to the extent that sometimes they try to be too much to too many people at the expense of their own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This is where wisdom comes in handy. The Lord knows we cannot be everything to everyone, and He doesn’t expect us to be such. He wants to share the burdens we take upon ourselves, and we need to have the faith that He can and will handle them. There needs to be a balance. But all too often the balance is shifted towards selfishness.

The only remedy for such a lifestyle is to serve our God and others—the loss of self to advance the righteous cause of our neighbor, and the praise of our redeemer Jesus Christ. We need to focus outwardly, instead of inwardly. We need to give instead of always taking. Instead of always expecting others to bless us, we instead bless them. We give our time, our talents, our everything for the benefit of God’s children, especially those in need. It’s the Second Greatest Commandment all over again, isn’t it?

With such an approach, full of faith, that seemingly troublesome individual all of a sudden is transformed from a negative energy drainer to a positive influence that people love to be around. They will be sought out instead of being rejected. And when they have valid problems, others will be pleased to be of assistance because of their positive display of concern for those around them.

Self-examination Brings Positive Change
We are discussing the principle of the agency, the free will of man, the right to choose, the right to be responsible for those choices, the right to make mistakes, the right to repent, the right to be judged, the right to be forgiven, the right to progress, and the right to be blessed. When we deny ourselves these rights through the means of denial, it is just as evil as if we were to deny another person these rights.

It is often so much easier and more convenient to lay the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of others than to accept it ourselves. When we blame others, we often leave that blame there and do no further self-evaluation. If we do not examine our inner-self, we will not find faults that might be hidden there. If we have undiscovered faults, we cannot work to change them. If we do not change faults through repentance we have not sufficiently repented. If we do not repent, we may not be worthy to have the Spirit of the Lord to be our constant companion. And without the Holy Spirit we cannot fulfill our righteous responsibilities here upon this earth; nor can we be full of light as God would have us.

When living in a state of denial we are actually betraying ourselves. And the pathetic thing about denial of responsibility is that those who embrace it often become blind to their predicament, believing that it is the other person or situation that is to be blamed.

By wearing such blinders as fear, pride, ignorance, apathy, anger, resentment, or vindictiveness, and not recognizing these weaknesses, we consent to Satan’s plan and help nullify the advantage of agency—the right to be responsible which brings further light and knowledge. The sad thing about those in denial is that they really believe someone or something else is responsible for their problems, always finding a scapegoat or an excuse. This being the case, how does one come to recognize that he or she is in denial, and what can be done about it?

To start, you must first tune in to the fact that you have blamed someone else or some inanimate object or situation. You need to think about what you have said, thought, or emotionally felt. It might be good to do some self-examination when you hear ourselves say something like, “It was your fault,” “If it wasn’t for you,” “If it wasn’t for that,” “They are the culprit,” and so on. Such statements of blame might just be signs of our denial.

There are numerous examples that many can use to help demonstrate what kind of people there are in the world. One example is that there are two kinds of people: the forgivers and the blamers. The forgivers tend to except responsibility and can forgive the frailties of others. The blamers, on the other hand, cannot handle being responsible. When the blamer has a problem, he or she tries to find fault and pin the guilt on someone else for that problem.

I know a number of people who live in denial; everything that goes wrong is ALWAYS someone else’s fault, and they cannot seem to see their own complicity in the problem. Even upon discussing the subject of how people live in denial with some of them, they say something like, “Yes, I know this guy who is always blaming someone else when he botches up.” But you know what? Most of these people I’ve talked to never seems to connect-the-dots when they mess-up; it’s always someone else (or some thing) that caused the problem. Many find it extremely difficult to accept responsibility, even for trivial mistakes. However, if we can be honest with ourselves, and upon closer examination, we may find that we, and not someone else, are responsible for the situation.

After we have come to the point of recognizing that we often find fault and place blame elsewhere, we need to ask ourselves if it is really true. In most instances the person without guile can see that it is not. But that involves total self-integrity which most of those in denial lack because of pride. Basic honesty is vital to our relationship with Christ. Without it, we alienate the Spirit.

It may not be easy to abandon the inappropriate practice of denial, but it can be done. And it will bring peace and assurance into our lives which comes from accepting personal responsibility. This action allows the Savior to take charge. It is being honest with ourselves and knowing where we stand before our Heavenly Father. And, we must remember, when we put our own interests before that of the Savior we are building upon the wrong foundation.

All of this is important as we strive to become worthy disciples of Jesus Christ. We must be honest with ourselves, and with Him, if we plan on being worthy of His eternal reward. We must only build upon the rock of Christ, having faith that He is the only one who can forgive and who offers joy, peace, and contentment. He can set us free from ourselves. I often try to keep in mind what my late wife meant when she said, “It isn’t who is right, but rather, what is right.”

Accepting Responsibility Is God’s Plan
Do you know what happens when you are honest with God and others, and where you are at with them? Love and forgiveness happens. You might think that you will only be loved by keeping things hidden, by holding a grudge, by trying to shift responsibility to others, or by trying to get even, but those are exactly what keeps you from receiving love. They create a barrier between you and God, and between you and other people.

Honest confession, sharing and forgiving can be the things that open the way to love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness can come to people who are weak and sinful, and to people who are hurting and who have hurt others. Such grace comes to those who you feel do not deserve it. But it does not come to people who keep things hidden, who are not honest with themselves or with God, who keep themselves closed up with secrets, nor those who hold grudges and do not extend forgiveness. Love comes when you take a chance on being honest. Loves comes when you let go of hurts and forgive. It comes when you accept responsibility instead of trying to shift that responsibility. It comes when you trust God and risk trusting others.

Can we approach our Heavenly Father in love and faith and ask for a blessing of forgiveness when we are holding anger and blame toward another—a blame that might well be placed upon our own shoulders? No, we cannot! We cannot approach God in faith. We cannot because of guilt, even though that guilt is based in the subconscious and we do not consciously accept it. We cannot because of fear of what others may think instead of what God thinks.

Because of this fear, we gradually develop a feeling of unworthiness. Faith brings the power of the blessing sought for, but fear is a barrier to the blessing desired. Therefore, because of fear, we lack the power of faith; and without faith, there is no love, as we discussed in a previous chapter. But where there is love, fear cannot exist.

The Lord’s plan is that we be accountable for our own thoughts, attitudes and actions. It is Lucifer’s plan to take away our liberty and keep us in the bondage of sin. If we are under the domination and control of others, then they are responsible for whatever we do that is wrong. Yet we must still be punished for our sins, even though coerced into them by someone else. Now that may not seem just, and God is a just God. He, therefore, wants all of us to exercise our free will, and to act according to the moral agency which He has given us, that WE may be held accountable for OUR OWN sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, anyone who strives to dominate and control our lives and be oppressive, are laboring unrighteously, and anyone willing to have their lives controlled by another is playing the devil’s game; and you can’t do God’s work with Satan’s rules.

By shifting blame, through denial, we see no need to change. Because we see the blame in others, and not in ourselves, we feel no need for personal repentance. Thus, because of unrepentance, we cannot expect forgiveness for our own sins, no matter how major or minor they may be, or how unrelentingly we lie to ourselves and accuse others for those sins or troubles.

Denial is a tool of the devil. It is designed to have us blame others for our problems instead of accepting our own responsibilities for our own attitudes, behaviors and conditions. Such are the teachings of Satan to our spirits. We fall into his trap if we tend to be dishonest with ourselves and others when it come to personal responsibility.

No one else is responsible for our salvation, we are. Acceptance of responsibility is the first step in the required principles of repentance and subsequent forgiveness. It is an indispensable step toward becoming a true disciple of Christ and receiving of His fulness.