Thursday, September 9, 2010

Communication Skills don’t Cut through Self-Delusion

I’m not a big believer in communication skills training. I know that for me the problems had been much deeper. We are all in the business of trying to prove ourselves. However, because of intense feelings of shame and inadequacy, I had been working overtime in trying to build my self-esteem and self-trust. However, in order to believe in myself, I had to deny and suppress the counter-evidence, evidences that disqualified my belief in self – my selfishness, self-centeredness, failures and need to always promote myself and to be right.

Just to illustrate this point, one psychological survey – and there are many like this one – interviewed husbands and their wives separately asking, “What percent of the housework do you do.” Husbands would characteristically answer between 30-50%, while their wives would answer 90-95%! Add the totals and we find that probably both parties have an inflated estimation of what they do. If it is the case that we have such distorted perceptions of ourselves and our contributions, no amount of communication skills will be able to compensate for our denials, our refusals to accept ourselves as we truly are. Consequently, such skills are co-opted by our hardened, deceived hearts for manipulative purposes.

We need to convince ourselves that we are significant people. This required me to feed myself on a lot of delusional self-affirmations that tended to alienate me from both life and viable relationships. Relationship depends upon shared truth – the only basis for communication and intimacy. It’s hard to relate to someone who believes that he is Julius Caesar or is in deep denial in some other respect. It requires that we enter into the fantasy world of another. After a while, this will feel burdensome. Instead, we desire to relate freely in an unencumbered way, without compulsion to make-believe and indulge someone else in their fantasies, against our best judgment.

In Euthanasia, the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck commented that the vast number of terminally ill he had worked with were in denial. Sadly, this precluded any possibility of reconciliation with estranged others and meaningful “goodbyes.”

Denial costs! Whenever my wife and I got into an argument – and that happened often – I was convinced that I was right and she was wrong, and she was convinced of the opposite. As a result, we could never reconcile our differences, but had to bury them in order to move on. But we didn’t really move on. Our differences just festered, and communication skills couldn’t even begin to touch them. We humans are just highly resistant to the truth, especially the truth about ourselves! Skills training will not penetrate the hardened mantel of our heart’s defenses.

It has only been through Christ – not through my five highly recommended psychologists – that I found liberation (John 8:31-32). Knowing His love, acceptance and forgiveness allowed me to slowly lay down the self-delusions that had taken me captive. If He has accepted me, then I could begin to accept myself and face my failures and misdeeds. As a result, communication is no longer encumbered by these hidden chains. I can now laugh at myself and admit that I am wrong, because it’s no longer about me and my worthiness, but His (Galatians 2:20; Jeremiah 17:5-7; Romans 8:31-32). He loves me and will never tire of it.

Also, I am no longer dependent upon the approval of others, but freed to love them. We can’t truly be other-centered, when we are centered on our need for their approval. Of course, they can hurt me, but I just take my pains to God, knowing that He’ll lift me back up. And He does!!

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