Weekly Thought – October 5, 2021
Fred told the truth. His upbringing in the home of a Southern Baptist blacksmith with massive hands and arms turned preacher may have had something to do with this. He valued truth and questioned to uncover the real story many times. “Staying current and facing the facts” were bywords. Denial made little sense to him and was definitely not part of his operating system.
Denial as the Default
The theme song for many goes, “say it isn’t so.” Saying it isn’t so is not making it not so. Yet so often we deny our problems and actually accept denial as one of the ways to solve them. How many times have you heard “leave it alone – it will go away.” I even knew an otherwise bright executive who consciously ignored such things as oil leaking from his car for, he said, “it will probably correct itself.” By denying the problem he delayed the solution – and also increased the damage.
Delay is a form of denial. Once a young man with an exceptional education and family connections asked me to lunch to discuss his business future. When I asked what he had been doing he said “I am looking for the right opportunity.” I thought a shock would be helpful so I told him “you have a great deal of potential n- in fact, you have all you have ever had for certainly you have used none of it.” Later on, one of his peers described him to me as a “Rolls Royce with a loose steering gear.” This sounds unkind, but he could be helped mightily by having his denial by delay pointed out clearly.
Some intellectual problems are handled by denial. Once I was talking with a well-known talk show host recognized for his intellectual, but liberal worldview. When I asked him if he believed in “original sin” he replied, “That would be an awful thought.” Can we escape a fact by calling it an idea, a concept, a viewpoint? Trying to escape the reality we want to deny is a fool’s errand.
Every day we consider ways to avoid the truth. For example, diplomacy is one way we delay and deny our political problems. With cosmetics we deny the aging process. Even in death we dress up the corpse to evoke the response, “doesn’t he/she look wonderful?” Even our vocabulary teaches us about denial. When installment credit plans were developed they were dubbed “convenience purchasing,” not debt. Often, we substitute the word progress for change, even when it is going in a downward direction. Euphemisms become the socially acceptable way of addressing negative events. We shield ourselves from unpleasant facts by giving them new names or definitions.
We are often tempted to deny relational problems. Therapists tell us of refuge in silent denial prominent in troubled homes. Lack of verbal communication supposedly covers the fact of a family breakdown. The ache of losing a child is sometimes covered by building a shrine in the child’s room, pretending death did not occur.
Kubler-Ross says the second step in grief recovery is denial. It is all right to let people deny for a short time, because rushing them into objective examination without gaining equilibrium is unhealthy. But remaining in denial doesn’t result in emotional health, either.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.” It is a place to move through on the way to health and maturity when grieving. It is a poor choice for living if we build it into our operating system.
This week think about: 1) When am I most tempted to deny or delay? 2) Where have I short circuited my growth by not facing facts? 3) Who is a good truth teller for me?
Words of Wisdom: “Delay is a form of denial.”
Wisdom from the Word: “What should we do with these men? For it is plain to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable miraculous sign has come about through them, and we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:16 NET Bible)