To know wisdom we must be able to discern and avoid lies and distorted thinking, but this may be the hardest part of “All things good to know [being] dfficult to learn.”
Perhaps the most important thing we need to know is why and how we’re vulnerable to believing lies or suppressing truth–from within ourselves as well as from others.
Through my life I’ve had to learn a lot of this the hard way, and the wisdom I gained came from the “hard knocks” of realizing I’d been duped, or just plain wasn’t facing reality. I suppose this is unavoidable to some extent. But in recent years I have learned a lot about where I’m likely to accept falsehood, and why and how others might be aiding and abetting it, often without realizing it. This area of learning is huge, and I don’t suppose anyone could gain it all in a lifetime. But if you want to venture into some learning experiences that might arm you against accepting falsehood, here are some that have been breakthroughs for me:
For one, there is within ourselves a strong leaning toward “denial” of realities we find too painful to accept. I “found” this wisdom most strikingly long ago in Al Anon, where I came to learn that the person least likely to admit to someone’s alcoholism is the person him- or herself–and/or the person closest to them in life, like a spouse.
“Denial” is just one of a whole list of :”defense mechanisms” we ourselves or other people in our lives may be using to avoid facing and dealing with painful truth. By searching online as I put this post together, I found these fifteen you might want to read and think about!
Once upon a time, I observed a whole church business meeting erupt into bizarre behavior to keep from accepting the fact of error or wrongdoing on the part of their leadership. It wasn’t until six weeks later that I thought to google “causes of mob mentality,” and learned about a phenomenon called “groupthink,” a powerful group force that suppresses truth by collective avoidance/denial. This phenomenon can occur in close groups of even highly intelligent and informed people and has evidently been at the root of some of the most “disastrous” governmental decisions in history. So it’s worth knowing something about, to perhaps keep from being part of it oneself!
Besides these largely subconscious ways that we or others keep us from truth there are those folks out there purposefully playacting, lying, and manipulating for their own personal advancement and avoidance of consequenses for their wrong behaviors. In the last decade or so I became painfully aware of the existence of people who exhibit the behaviors of covert aggression, multiple diversion tactics, purposeful and conscious “projection” (see the first article link above), and behaviors designed purposely to undermine and sabotage anyone they see as competition or otherwise a threat to their agenda, or whom they simply want to control by putting them in a “one-down” position. These people may be defined as having “narcissitic personality disorder,” or even be sociopathic or psychopathic while looking like the nicest person you ever met! And the percentage of our population that’s made of such is enough to take your breath away.
If one out of every ten or twenty people among us tends to one of these categories, as research shows us, we would really do well to learn about their tactics and how to keep from being badly victimized–or led astray–by them. Just think: how many people do you relate to on some kind of social, business, or church basis? Divide by ten or twenty, and you have the likely number of these folks you can expect to be interacting with in an average population. And don’t think that being largely church-oriented in your social sphere keeps you safer, for the percentages there prove actually to be higher!
No wonder Jesus told his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” and to beware of hypocrites! Innocence alone is not enough. We need to be savvy, too. I think the operative bibilical word is “discernment.”