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How We Deceive Ourselves

Do you ever find yourself acting contrary to what you know is good or what you really want to be about? Or perhaps you know someone who says the right things and seems to present good intentions, but, in fact, they do not actually do much that is consistent with such beliefs. I call this self-deception.

Self-deception is the act of deceiving oneself, especially concerning one’s true nature, feelings, motivations, etc. When we say one thing but do another, we are really in DENIAL (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying) of our nature. Our behaviors don’t lie; we live out our values. Sometimes we do not even see what is motivating us. If what we do is contrary to what we claim, then we are self-deceiving. The result of this is that others learn not to trust our word. If we’re deceiving ourselves, we see others as being judgmental when they don’t trust us, because they simply do not see what we want them to see.


Spouses know each other. Wives tend to know their husbands so well that men can’t hide their true nature. Men try to hide our inconsistent beliefs, and we act poorly towards those who see our inconsistency. We put up a variety of fronts that we call passive violence. These behaviors are a result of self-deception.

But men aren’t the only ones who deceive themselves; women can as well. I had a couple come to me who were living 2,000 miles apart had multiple children. She said he was angry and controlling. She said he had to change. It seemed clear that she was completely blaming her husband for their problems. It was true that he had things he needed to change, but focusing only on him denied that she had been deceptive and manipulative in some ways, too. She had taken the children away from him and left in secret. By focusing only on what her husband needed to change, she deceived herself into thinking he was the only one with a problem, and that she didn’t need to change anything. It seems to me that when we are focused only on what we want, we become self-deceptive. When we focus on the people we love, we choose to be giving and caring.

Ways we can deceive ourselves

  1. When we act contrary to what we feel or know we should do. That is self-betrayal.
  2. When we begin to see the world in a way that justifies our self-deception. We give ourselves permission to go against what we know we should do, with excuses like “I just need more sleep,” or “I was just really angry.”
  3. When we start seeing the world in a self-justifying way, our view of reality becomes distorted. We see the world as being there only for us and needing to pay attention to our needs.
  4. When our view of reality becomes distorted, it changes how we view others. We see them as opponents or enemies. If they don’t attend to our needs, they are bad. People become more like objects than other humans with their own sets of needs to be met.

If I self-deceive, my spouse will feel the need to become self-protective. Sin begets more sin. We end up in a fight that blames and shames, and it starts to feel like there is little choice for either of us but to be in self-protective mode. At this point, we do not look very much like the people God calls us to be.

Focusing on Truth and Connection

So, how can we move away from self-deceptive behaviors and, instead, focus on connection rather than justification? If we don’t want any deception or false justification in our relationships, we must learn to give true love and respect.

  1. If we want to change, we need to see ourselves and others as we really are—as people.
  2. If we know that we are worthy of love and respect, then we’ll give love and respect to others as well.
  3. When we change our thinking, we change our behaviors. When we are consistent with our values, we not only like who we are, but we can accept others as being different from ourselves.

Learning to understand where we’re deceiving ourselves and how that impacts those around us can be a difficult process to undertake on our own. We here at the Marriage Recovery Center are happy to help you do this! If you’d like more information about our services, please contact our Client Care Team and we’ll get back to you quickly!


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