I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life

Article excerpt

I TOLD ME SO: SELF-DECEPTION AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Gregg A. Ten Elshof. (2009). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Pb. Pp. 158, $15.00.

A recent meta-analysis in Personality and Social Psychology Review on religiousness and self-enhancement piqued my interest regarding this title. The book is an easy read appropriate for professionals and lay folks alike. The essential thesis of the book is that fallen individuals often avoid the hard work of good action and good character but reap the good feelings associated with such work and action by deceiving themselves. If we can think of ourselves as good and worthy, without doing the hard work of good and worthy, then we may seem to be in the best of all possible worlds. Self-deception allows us to enter this 'best of all possible worlds.' The author goes on to argue that people may be rather blind to this tendency (in themselves) because we live in a culture of authenticity (making self-deception an especially egregious sin that we are loath to identify with ourselves).

The author goes on to argue that we are most likely to self-deceive in areas where we are emotionally invested. For example, I tend to be brazenly honest about my lack of baseball skills (because I don't care one twit about baseball). However, I may be much more likely to deceive when it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit (because I do care deeply about following Jesus Christ).

Chapters three and four lay out five examples of self-deception: attention management, procrastination, perspective switching, rationalization, and ressentiment. Each example is delineated and then embellished through real life examples. Many of those real life examples come from the life of the author and many of them hit embarrassingly close to home. For example, there is procrastination. Like the author, I have heard more than one persuasive communication encouraging me to give to a very worthy cause. …