Bible, Christian Life, Christianity, denial, devotional, distortion, God, inspirational, Jesus, lies, motivational, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View), perception, personal honesty, self-deception, truth
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)”
I had a devotional about this topic before, but as it’s a timely one that doesn’t get touched on much, I feel it’s appropriate to revisit it.
In this episode, Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie have a disastrous time on a boating trip, yet when they try to explain who was at fault to Twilight Sparkle she receives three different accounts…none of which agree with each other. After carefully considering all three stories and the common elements, it turns out none of the stories reflected reality at all, yet it wasn’t fair to call them “lies” either. Each individual believed they were giving the honest truth, but the problem was each one focused only on certain aspects, distorted and warped them to suit their notions, and ignored everything else. That didn’t stop them all from insisting that their stories were perfectly true, however, and actually getting angry when disbelief was indicated.
I rarely read political news anymore, because whenever I do I feel like I’m losing my mind. Part of that is due to the fact that I look in on both right-leaning networks as well as left-leaning networks, and some days the same reporting on the same incident is so wildly different between the two you’d think the same thing happened in two alternate universes. That clearly shows that objective reporting is dead, as I highly doubt that one of the networks is saying the completely honest truth while the other is telling bold-faced lies. Nor do I believe that either side (at least not completely) is out to totally distort everything to delude people. Rather, I think either network is made up of people of the same political ideology and they, like all of us, see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. Back when I was in college I heard the Christian Science Monitor had a reputation for being one of the genuinely unbiased news sources out there. I read an article from them and I was overwhelmed. Seeing a news report that genuinely just reported facts without any spin or bias was so shocking that it hardly even looked like what we call “news” nowadays. (I can only hope it’s continued that trend…)
Usually it’s impossible to get either side to look in on the other’s network. In fact, usually when you suggest it, you get mocked for being a “mindless sheep”…as if the person who did the mocking wasn’t already clinging to their own source as absolute “Gospel”. The fact this exists at all in news is distressing, but it really does just simply illustrate the greater truth about people in general.
People claim that they want to hear all of the facts to know the truth about something and then make a decision, but this is usually a lie or, at minimum, a form of self-delusion. The reality is none of us see the world the way it is no matter how many facts we read. We always see the world the way we are.
This isn’t any clearer than in the political stories I just mentioned. I’ll take the recent incidents with the James Comey hearing. Once it was concluded, one side claimed that it completely vindicated the Trump administration of any wrongdoing whatsoever. The other side claimed it was such a scathing indictment that they could start impeachment proceedings immediately. That’s insane. The exact same factual event happened, and yet two different news sources said two completely different things occurred. But this sort of self-delusion and distortion of truth can happen anywhere, especially within us.
Just as a personal example, as I’ve said before, I suffer from perfectionism; the need to be externally pleasing and do things just right in order to be a good and conscientious person. Sometimes that can interfere with my work. Let’s say I put in a full day during a busy schedule and it’s time for me to head out. Sometimes, however, I’m afraid to. Knowing it’s a busy time, I’m afraid that this will reflect poorly on my work ethic because I’m not willing to put in extra time. Sure I’m not required to put in more, but if I don’t will that show I’m not willing to make any sort of sacrifice for the team? And sure, my supervisor may be fine with me putting in normal hours, or perhaps even has said to me before not to work later, but I second guess myself. What if he didn’t really feel that way? What if that was just something he said to be polite? What if he naturally expects that advice to be ignored by anyone else on the team? What if he expects me to put in at least a little extra time? What if I inadvertently slacked off today and I really am “in the red” when it comes down to it? It’s not long before I start imagining scenes of my supervisors being disappointed with me or angry about failure to turn things in. Sometimes I even obsess over it all weekend, ruining what down time I do get. And this is all in the face of compliments and praise I get both at work and on my performance reviews. None of those things matter anymore. My perfectionism now dictates reality to me rather than having the ability to see things the way they are.
Bad childhood experiences, past hurts, phobias, irrational fears…all of these things can do the same to people. People might stay isolated and alone because they think everyone is untrustworthy and “out to get them”. Or maybe people choose only to see acts of violence or crime by individuals of a certain race on TV and conclude an entire race is bad, while ignoring hundreds of thousands of members of the same race who are neither violent nor criminals. Perhaps they say all Christians or Muslims are psychopaths because of a terrorist attack, while they ignore millions that live normal, peaceful lives. Or maybe they demand that a particular race, creed, or religion “prove” their peacefulness by demanding they denounce and rally against an act of violence or terror…while at the same time if a member of their own race, creed, or religion does the same they get angry if someone tries to say it’s representative of them.
From a personal standpoint, I believe that one can conclude God is real and that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and Savior of Mankind through exposure to genuine Christians, one’s own conscience, and the natural world along with the Bible. And people who are honestly seeking God or truth have indeed become Christian as a result of doing so. Yet there are others who demand more concrete proof before they will say they believe in God. For them, there’s all sort of books like “Jesus Freaks” and “The Case for Faith”, as well as personal witnessing, testimony, and miracles from thousands of Christians worldwide; but more often than not they’ll say: “that’s not ‘concrete’ enough…I need real proof”. For those people, I’m not even sure Jesus Christ manifesting Himself before them would be enough, because they’ve already concluded God isn’t real. At this point, in their mind it’s simply rationalizing away anything that says contrary.
If you’ve read the first few books of the Bible, you’re familiar with how the Israelites that left Egypt during the Exodus almost continuously complained against Moses and sought to return to Egypt after every difficulty that arose, and this was after they saw God bring the plagues of Egypt, part the Red Sea, feed them daily with manna, and guide them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. It’s easy for us to shake our heads and laugh at these people, but I take it more seriously. If even they continuously doubted God when he acted explicitly on their behalf, how much less would it take us to fall away from faith and start seeing the world through our own narrow vision?
I believe one of the most important instructions the Bible emphasizes is the need to be honest with ourselves and, above all, to strive to remove any inner lies and deception from inside ourselves. “I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (Psalms 36:1-2); “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:22-24); “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42)
So long as we aren’t honest with ourselves, we will distort the world and everything we see and hear to fit our own warped lenses. And when that happens, we will never accurately see any truth, including God’s Truth.
A good prayer for today (and perhaps regularly) might be to ask God to confront us with anything that we are being dishonest or in denial about, so that we can remove it and clearly see what we’re overlooking. This isn’t necessarily easy, because the first step of this is admitting that we’re currently wrong about something we may have a strong opinion about and even adamantly defend. Yet if we want to keep growing to become more mature and perfect in Christ, we have to be willing to face it. As Lord Jesus said: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your instruction to be on guard against self-deception and the warning for the consequences. Please help me to always be honest with myself so I can see the world clearly and truthfully, as you do, rather than to suit whatever distortion I want to see. In doing so, help me to live a life more eagerly pursuing genuine truth, including your truth. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”