“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive” Sir Walter Scott
I wonder sometimes, how deceptive we are being to ourselves. This is a story I was told not long ago, bear with me, it will connect.
There once was a girl, a young girl of 16 named Gretchen. She ended up with thyroid cancer and it spread to her body. People that her family didn’t know came to help with prayers or food. One lady, however, would come and sing for this girl. She would bring her guitar and sing loudly and make a scene about what a poor circumstance this poor little girl was in. Every week it was the same. She would bring her guitar to the hospital, sing loudly some hymn, dote over the young girl lying in pain and then leave. Then, the doctor came in one day and announced that the cancer appeared to be leaving Gretchen’s body, that it would still be a long haul but the diagnosis was looking good. After this, the guitar gal left, never to come by and see Gretchen or her family again.
Now, there are two ways of looking at this story. You can look at the guitar girl and see that maybe she wanted to bring cheer to an otherwise devoid of cheer place (at least to her assumption) or you can look at the woman’s behavior and see that she was overly loud and appeared to be seeking approval or attention. What were her motives? What are my motives when I am doing a “good” thing for someone else, am I really just deceiving myself into believing they are ‘good’ or ‘needed’. Am I acting off assumptions and pity that perhaps the person doesn’t want? Am I looking for a pat on the back? Do I want someone to speak about how amazing and selfless I am? Maybe the fact that I even know what “the kind thing to do” is, makes me guilty, because wouldn’t a selfless person not even see it that way? Wouldn’t it be second nature?
These are random and odd thoughts but they have been on my mind. I can look in my past and see that there have been times when, yes, I wanted to help but also it made me feel good about myself and it portrayed me in a great light. Wanting to feel good about yourself is not in itself bad but, if it’s the portrait I want most, then something isn’t right. Recently I looked hard, it was buried deep inside me, a selfish motive for a seemingly unselfish action. So why do I or others seek this kind of attention? Are we bored with our lives and this is a convenient way to make us feel good? Are we insecure? Are we vain? Are we all three?
I first heard the story about ‘Gretchen’ a few months ago. It was a personal experience of my husbands. It appeared to him and his family that the lady only wanted the attention of being available for an ill child. They felt like a charity case and they felt used, like she used them for her own selfish feel good motivations. I was glad he told me this story as it made me stop and question my present motives for doing things. Am I the lady with the loud voice brandishing a guitar in the name of pink ribbons? Perhaps to an extent, and that’s an awful thing to have to admit to yourself. It hurts and it’s painful. But it’s the truth.
Perhaps the scariest thing is that self deception happens so easily, we never know it’s there sometimes, until we are nudged by a story or a quick thought. Suddenly we are called into our own personal court room, weighing the truths and falsehoods in our minds. This is a critical moment because to move forward in truth, this means we not only have to acknowledge our lies, but we have to choose to fix them. If we only acknowledge them without fixing, it’s as if we say, “well it’s okay and it’s just a little fib”. There is no forward path in this lack of action and the more we do this the less we recognize reality.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on deception of ourselves. I will now be going to my kitchen to cook and try to deceive my children into eating vegetables. Perhaps this kind of deception can be right……