I didn’t intend for this “Lessons from my father” series to be about my mother! (But since the two lived together for 65+ years, I guess the overlap is inevitable.) Father often explained to us that his wife had the unique ability to believe things that were not true. That is, she had the capacity to create her own reality, and then fully believe it. Interesting.
Apparently this ability was not unique to her. Greg Elshof writes in his book I Told Me So: “Self-deception is a major part of what defeats spiritual formation. . . (we) refuse to acknowledge factors in life of which we are dimly conscious, or even know to be the case, but are unprepared to deal with.”
The same book cites studies showing that 94% of the college professors interviewed believed that they are better than average at their jobs. Among one million high school students, 70% think they are above average in leadership ability, 60% saying they are in the top 10% and one out of four saying they see themselves in the top 1%. How is that for positive self-image?!
I find this surprising, because my interactions have been more with people who under-rate themselves than those who over-rate themselves. Either can be dangerous. But based on the statistics, it seems that the self-confidence-boosting gospel has been highly effective.
The interesting thing is that what I believe about myself, my situations and others around me does not need to be true in order to be “true to me” and therefore significantly impact my attitudes, habits and actions. That becomes really tricky. A leader who believes that he manages people well might not be willing to take a course in Team Building, even if he really needs it. And in an opposite example, a teenager who believes that his parents do not love him experiences that as reality, even though it might not be true at all.
My parents helped me realize that it is easy to be deceived by my own view of the truth. What to do? Hopefully a healthy dose of honest input from honest friends, and a willingness to hear exhortation along with affirmation will help keep us on track.