Man in the Mirror

"Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies go himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he cannot distinguish the truth within him or around him, and so loses respect for himself."
- Fyodor Dostoevsky
Truth seems to be in ever-diminishing supply these days. It's hard to know what to believe when accounts of the same event or conversation vary two or three ways. We want to believe and trust others when they look us in the eye and speak--we default towards believing that people are honest--but it is really impossible to know.

Every time surveys are done concerning what traits are most desirable in a friend, the number one answer is always...Honesty. Just tell me the truth, we say. Give me the facts and I will deal with them.

But which facts? And does objective truth really exist--or is it only what a person says it is at the time. Subject to debate and opinion. "Your truth is not my truth," some will insist today. Maybe there are "alternative facts"--a different version of reality.

I still believe in truth. Something happened or it didn't. Words were spoken, or they weren't. "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," said Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "but not to his own facts."

Of course people get it wrong sometime--innocently. We mis-remember. We thought he was a short man, he was really tall. A sunny day, but it was actually overcast. The car was a red convertible, but we say it was a blue SUV. Eyewitnesses to the same event can tell wildly different accounts of what happened.

But outright lies are something else. They come from a sinful heart (Matthew 15:19) that is bent on self-preservation. Christ-followers are to be people of truth, though. Speaking it in love--but speaking it, even when it may hurt (Ephesians 4:15).

It is possible that, with the oft' telling of lies, we can deceive ourselves. We stretch or misrepresent the truth so frequently, we actually start to believe it ourselves. Eventually we forget what really happened and adopt the version we have been peddling for so long.
The only way I know to prevent this kind of gradual self-deception is to keep honest people around you to whom you are accountable. Who can speak hard truths into your life when you need to hear them? Who will love you anyway, but who will not let you off the hook as easily as you would like. A good church and small group can provide those folks.

Daily time with God, too. You lay your words, actions, and heart meditations before Him and you check them according to His Word. A prayer something like this is essential:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
"The unexamined life is not worth living," said Socrates.

My journal-keeping helps me to stay honest. I do not record my sins for someone else to read about someday--but I do recount my actions and motivations. I don't lie about them. I re-read these volumes, after all. It's painful sometimes, because I know what's coming up on the next page. By cross-referencing over the years, though, time gives me a better perspective even of my failures. Reading again also keeps me humble when I am dealing with others.

I have to look myself in the mirror every day--just like everybody else. And, except for the inevitable wrinkles and age spots, I want to feel good about the man looking back at me. And trust him.
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