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The Paradox of Self-Deception

Tokhein Libbot Adonai

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The LORD weighs the heart...

by John J. Parsons

Proverbs 21:2 (BHS)

"Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart."
(Proverbs 21:2)

It is one thing to be deceived by another person, and quite another to "fool yourself" by engaging in self-deception. Of all forms of deception, I think it can be argued that self-deception is perhaps the worst, since the self becomes divided and unable to provide a unified defense against the power of the lie.  As Soren Kierkegaard said, "Purity of the heart is to will one thing," but self-deception divides the power of the will and incapacitates the ability to see this "one thing" necessary in your life.


"We have met the enemy, and he is us." – Pogo

WHEN AN ENEMY deceives you, he knows the truth about something and deliberately tries to conceal it from you. He may do this by telling you outright lies or by misleading your judgment in some way.  Regardless of the deceptive method used, when he defrauds you of the truth, you become subject to his manipulation and control.

There is a different kind of deception, however, that is more insidious than being misled by an external enemy.  This deception comes from within the heart and involves choosing to believe a lie, often for self-serving or self-flattering reasons.  "Anyone who thinks he is something when he is nothing," said the Apostle Paul, "deceives himself" (Gal. 6:3).

Self-deception is a universal condition of mankind.  The Scripture declares: kol derekh ish yashar be'einav"every man's way is right in his eyes" – indicating that by nature we are self-justifying creatures, prone to believe our own "propaganda" and wishful thinking. 
We are apt to be biased in our self-examination and ready to excuse ourselves at every turn, rationalizing our behavior and suppressing the truth about ourselves in order to quell the voice of conscience within our hearts.  When faced with an inconsistency between our behavior and our romanticized self-image, we often regard ourselves as something other than what we really are.  In short, we deceive ourselves.

The remedy for self-deception is honest acceptance of ourselves as God sees us, since vetokhein libbot Adonai – "the Lord weighs the heart."  The Hebrew word for "weighs" is takhan, meaning to measure, balance, make even, or adjust to a standard. 

God's moral law functions as a "looking glass" of our inward condition, revealing both the divine standard of life required of us and also the truth of our own need for deliverance from ourselves.

It is only though the honest confession of our condition that we will find healing from the "divided self" – and thereby make our way right in the eyes of the Lord.  As Yeshua said, you shall then know the truth, and "the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). 

May the Lord help us to be honest before Him always.


Transliteration:

Proverbs 21:2 transliteration

kol derekh ish yashar b'einav, vetokhein libbot Adonai

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