Disturbed characters have big problems admitting and reckoning with the truth. Some play fast and loose with it. That’s usually to avoid challenging their grandiosity or to hoodwink or manipulate others. And some are at odds with it because it stands in the way of what they desire. Still others simply abhor the truth, mainly because it would expose what they know are the contemptible aspects of their character. Disturbed characters are often at war with the truth. And while they still are, there’s little chance they will change their ways.
The Truth and “Denial”
Refusing to face or accept the truth is not the same as being “in denial.” True denial is a psychological state born of extreme emotional pain. And it’s not a behavior we consciously engage in. Rather, it’s a mental state we’re unconsciously thrown into as a protection from pain too great to bear consciously. Refusing to accept the obvious because you don’t want to admit error or change course is not denial. Unfortunately, a lot of folks – including many mental health professionals – erroneous apply this term to such behavior. But lying – even to oneself – is simply lying, not denial. And it’s something disturbed characters regularly do. Sometimes, an inveterate liar can even begin to believe their falsehoods. But this is still not the same thing as being in denial.
The Power of Honest Self-Reckoning
There’s great power in truth. It can indeed set us free – even from our most unhealthy tendencies. But first we have to be of a mind to reckon with it. Then, we have to be willing to accept it. And as Bill W, the founder of A.A. once said, that willingness – born of a change of heart and mind – is the beginning of real change. (For more on this topic see the article: What Real Contrition Looks Like). Of course, changing who we are takes a lot more than just our willingness to be honest. It takes commitment – commitment to an ongoing process of character growth. But until and unless we honestly self-reckon with our issues, we can’t even begin that process.
Heeding the Fourth “Commandment”
Facing life and it’s various issues honestly and without self-deceit is the heart of good character. Unfortunately, some folks are more than just occasional or relatively innocuous liars. There are those among us for whom “conning” is a lifestyle. And I’ll have more to say about the more “compulsive” or “pathological” liars among us in next week’s post.
Sunday’s Character Matters program (7 pm EDT) will again be a live broadcast so I can take your calls at (718) 717-8296.