Few people will be so overt as to say 'I am without sin'. Self-deceit is rarely that obvious. It often comes masked in socially acceptable and socially rewarded forms of behavior.
Perfectionism, for example, is a common expression of self deceit. We try very hard to look good. Sometimes we work so hard to look perfect, ('without sin'), that we nearly convince ourselves that it's true. Then, in the moments when we suddenly remember our human condition, we feel shame and self-contempt. And this often makes us want to work even harder to cover over reality with more layers of self deceit.
But self-deceit will never lead to change and growth. Only honesty can bring change. Recovery begins as we face our failures, our wrong-doing, and our self-destructive choices.
For people like us, who have tried very, very hard to be very, very good, facing reality can be painful work. The courage to pursue taking an honest inventory of our lives is not possible without some source of compassion and forgiveness that can replace our shame and self contempt. The good news is that God is compassionate and forgiving. God freely, joyfully, completely pardons. Because of this hope, we can look honestly at ourselves. Because we can turn to God and find mercy and pardon, we can make a fearless inventory of our lives.
I have tried hard.
I have tried harder.
I have tried my hardest.
But it has only led to self-deceit.
Help me, God, I need you.
I need your compassion to overpower my self contempt.
I need your forgiveness to overpower my self condemnation.
Rid me of self-deceit, God.
And build in me a capacity for honesty.
Not so that I can be perfect, but so that I can genuinely change.
And, so that I can rejoice in your love for me.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery