You are not the expert on you.
Now, to be fair and state the obvious, in one sense, you are an expert on you. You alone know your secret thoughts, dreams, desires, etc. Only you are privy to information that others cannot know unless you tell them. You sole access to all your insider information.
However, there is a very real sense in which you are not the expert on you. In fact, you are often quite wrong about you. How could this be so when you have such good intel so close to the source? To say it shortly, you lie to yourself about you. The Bible has lots to say about this phenomena of “self-deception” (see Psalm 36:1-4; 1 John 1:8; James 1:22; Revelation 3:17), but the prophet Jeremiah gets to the bottom lines quickest, “The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The most dangerous liar in your life is yourself.
Our Inner PR Person
“But,” you understandably ask, “How can I be wrong about me?” The answer is, although we may know many “facts” about ourselves, we aren’t always accurate or honest in the way we interpret those facts. We all have a little PR person in our souls who labors to put a positive spin on everything we think, feel, say, and do. It looks something like this:
No, you’re not lazy, you just work hard and need a little time.
No, your not sinning, they’re being legalistic and Pharisaical.
No, you definitely are humble and open to correction, the problem is their corrections are just plain wrong or the way they gave them was insensitive.
Yes, you may have gotten a little out of hand, but they provoked you.
Yea, your words were harsh and disrespectful, but their way of thinking is evil and needs hard words of correction.
No, you’re not inconsiderate, you’re misunderstood.
Yes, you may have hurt them deeply, but, after what they did, they’re the ones that should be apologizing.
No, you’re not unproductive, your boss is just too demanding.
No, you’re not a bad listener, they just aren’t hearing you rightly.
No, you’re not addicted, you could totally quit when you want to.
No, you’re not insensitive, you’re honest.
You have to admit, our inner-PR-person is good at what he does. Spin, spin, spin.
But, since our high view of self is often under attack, the work of self-justification cannot be carried upon the shoulders of our inner-PR person alone. So we call for help.
Confirmation Team, Assemble!
Instead of halting our incessant self-justifications, we strengthen them by enlisting the help of others who support our spin and affirm our fake-self-news. With this impressive echo-chamber of self-justification and communal-confirmation, we put ourselves in an almost unnoticeable (and therefore unchangeable) position of self-blindness. We become a well-educated expert on who we think we are, but incredibly ignorant of who we actually are. Our internal mirror is of the carnival sort.
Three Remedies for Self-Deception
How is one to avoid believing such delicious propaganda? At very least, by humbly seeking and receiving these three gifts from God.
1) Humbly Receive God’s Word
There is nothing that should make us distrust our hearts like God’s Word. As I quoted above, the Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus Himself, “did not entrust himself to (people), because he knew all people” (John 2:24). Additionally, the Scriptures show our hearts are a battlefield where our flesh and Spirit ceaselessly war against one another. According to Scripture, we are unable to be an unbiased or unblinded observer/assessor of self, but need God to turn the lights on to see ourselves in His mirror. Only when we are searching and applying the Scriptures do we have hope of exposing and silencing the spin of our inner PR-person.
Though a believer does indeed have a new heart in Christ, it doesn’t follow that they’re, therefore, invulnerable to self-deception. The plentiful warnings against self-deceit and examples of godly people not realizing their own blind spots or initiating their own repentance of sin should make us wary of self and turn daily read and heed God’s Word.
2) Humbly Receive God’s People
However, with God’s Word in hand, we’re still not completely safe. Our inner-PR-person is good at his own type of Scriptural exegesis and application. When we handle the Bible in isolation, we tend to make applications for everyone else instead of ourselves; applications that always suspiciously make us the hero and others the villains.
This is why meaningful fellowship with other believers is essential to cut through our own smoke and help us see ourselves as we actually are. Through their words and deeds, other godly people will help us see things in us that we’d otherwise be blind to. One time recently, I was in a meeting where I spouted off on a particular topic I was passionate about. In my zeal, I said things in unnecessarily sharp and hurtful ways. I believed in what I said and I believed I was acting off good intentions, but my tone was without discernment, insensitive, and counterproductive. Now, I would have gone on not thinking twice about it unless a brother-in-Christ, who was present at the meeting, came to me and humbly explained what he (and others) saw. He offered me a chance to see the situation as it was, not as I perceived it. He gave me the story without the spin. He supported me by opposing my PR-person. Without friends like that in my life, I am, and I say this with complete honesty, without hope and doomed to live in the darkness of our own deceit. The same is true for you.
This brings me to a major concern I have for many professing believers I know. Many Christians don’t have meaningful relationships with folks in their church. They don’t have relationships with believers who know them well enough to speak hard truth if needed. For many, church is, at best, a Sunday thing they sometimes attend, not a family to which they belong. It can, at times, offer them encouragement through a sermon, but they experience no exhortation through a person. If our church interaction is only a Sunday thing then we’ll never give others the chance to know us and, therefore, get the chance to know ourselves. Without other believers, we allow our inner-PR-person’s spin go uncontested. We end up living in a life where everyone else knows our flaws except us.
3) Humbly Receive God’s Gospel
The only way we will listen to the hard truths God’s Word or God’s people have for us is when we’re living in the light of the gospel. Those forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ have no reason to hide their sin or pretend to be perfect. The gospel teaches us all that we are sinners deserving God’s righteous and good judgment (Romans 6:23), but now through faith in Christ we’ve become God’s loved children, forgiven, and holy in His eyes (Col. 1:21-22). In Jesus, we have nothing to prove and no face to save. We can agree with God and others about our shortcomings and blind spots! We can fire our inner PR-person since our value in God’s eyes and our security in God’s love is not based on our performance, but on Christ’s performance for us (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 10:10, 14; Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:8-9). We no longer have to spin anything if we live in the perfect work of Christ. Life under the cross is a no-spin zone.
So friends, hear this: you are not the expert on you.
Read and heed God’s Word, plant yourself in relationship with God people, and see yourself in God’s gospel. When God says something about you, listen. When others tell you what they see in you (whether encouragement or correction), listen. For you are no longer darkness, but have been made into light; so live in it.
Fire your inner PR-person and listen to your Savior. Live in the no-spin zone.