Précis: To explain the common use of ego-defense mechanisms and their deceptive powers; aid in self-examination; affect change.
Text: Proverbs 28:13
The greatest majority of problems we experience are of our own doing. In most cases, it is we ourselves who design or engineer our circumstances. This is difficult to accept since from childhood we have been blaming someone or something other than ourselves for the mistakes we have made. How often have you heard such statements as:
“My reason for drinking too much is job pressure; I am bitter and angry because I’m being violated; Because no one appreciates me, I quit; I am confronting and angry because my mother didn’t breast-feed me; If you lived with an old goat for a husband, you too would be depressed; I failed my classes because my teacher has it in for me; My secretary, she seduced me; I lost my job because I am a Christian; I’m suffering for Christ’s sake!”
Such statements establish the alleged causes for one’s misfortunes. They are convenient face-saving devices which shift both responsibility and accountability away from self. This method of side-stepping the true cause for my dilemma is as old as history. When Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law in the Garden of Eden, both pointed the finger elsewhere. A thunderclap shattered the stillness of the evening air as God called “Where art thou?” Have you eaten of the fruit that I forbade thee, He continued. Adam’s response is interesting; The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. Eve’s answer reflects the same cover-up; The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. (Gen 3:12-13)
Projection: Ego defense mechanism in which a person places the blame for
one’s difficulties or unethical desires and impulses on others.
So self-deceiving and subtle is our attempt to detach ourselves from the consequence of our behavior, that we can perpetuate the most vulgar behavior and still feel righteous about it. Hitler felt blameless in exterminating six million Jews. Somehow, he convinced himself that it was their fault. In a smaller but similar fashion, numerous everyday obligations are avoided.
When God asked Adam about his sin, he blamed Eve. Eve in turn blamed the snake. And when God asked the snake, he didn’t have a leg to stand on!
Lesson: Facing The Mirror
21.1 List Of Commonly Used “Cover-ups” or Ego-defense Mechanisms
1. Denial: A refusal to acknowledge that which is threatening or unpleasant. This is often done through “escape activities”. (Saul – 1 Sam. 15:13-14)
2. Projection: Placing the blame for unpleasant or harmful realities on someone or something other than self. (Adam and Eve – Gen. 3:11-13)
3. Rationalization: Excusing one’s unacceptable behavior by displaying its logical, rational virtues. (Saul – 1 Sam. 15:15-24)
4. Fantasy: Fulfilling frustrated desires by erecting an imaginary world as we would like it to be. (The rich man – Luke 12:16-20)
5. Reaction Formation: The denial of harmful desires and attitudes by exaggerating the opposite characteristics. (Ananias and Sapphira – Acts 5:1-2)
6. Repression: Preventing harmful desires or thoughts by consciously ignoring them or pushing them from consciousness. (Pharaoh’s butler – Gen. 40:1-23)
7. Atonement: Compensating for unacceptable thoughts, desires, deeds or deportment with redemptory behavior. (Pilate – Matt. 27:24)
8. Identification: Increasing personal advantage by association with notable achievements, institutions or persons. (Crowds around Jesus – Mark 6:31)
9. Compensation: Shifting attention from a weakness by overemphasizing a strength or virtue. (Saul – 1 Sam. 15:20-22)
10. Displacement: Discharging harmful feelings on objects or relationships which will result in less dangerous consequences. (Joseph’s brethren – Gen. 37)
11. Emotional Isolation: Sheltering against personal hurt by withdrawing into a noncompetitive, indifferent or passive mode. (Elijah – 1 Kings 19:1-4)
12. Intellectualization: The use of tightly constructed logic sequences to separate self from accountability (Saul – 1 Sam. 15:20-22)
13. Sublimation: Dissipating injurious desires through alternative means or behavior. (Moses – Exodus 32:19-20)
14. Sympathism: Gaining recognition or attention by soliciting pity. The suffering saint syndrome. (Infirm man of 38 years – John 5:2-7)
15. Regression: Retreating to a former station in life where less trauma existed. (The children of Israel – Exodus)
16. Acting Out: Gratifying harmful desires by symbolic behavior.
17. Introjection: Adopting external standards to immune oneself against external threats ((The children of Israel – Throughout history)
21.2 The Need To Face Unpleasant Reality
1. He who covers his sins shall not prosper – Proverbs 28:132. He who confesses shall have mercy – Proverbs 28:13