You might have read the book The Bonds that Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner, it is a favorite amongst my family members. I think we each dabble in its wisdom periodically. If you have read it, you will recognize this anecdote as a classic case of self-betrayal. If you haven’t read it, perhaps you will want to after reading what it has done for me. And even if this is the only time I succeed, the only argument averted (and I pray it won’t be) it was worth reading.
Last night I made Richard’s favorite dessert. He had to eat it in a hurry because of a church meeting he had to go to. As he walked out the door he commented that he looked forward to a second helping of dessert and an episode of The Commish when he returned. I looked at him askance, and asked if he meant that he wanted me to have that all set up for him. He smiled and said “That would be nice.” I made a mental note to do so.
At some point in the next hour I started to doubt whether I was going to be able to execute his wishes. Or if I even wanted to. It might have been during Eli’s haircut, or Miriam’s bath, or the dinner dishes or while I folded laundry. Then came the moment of truth, the moment of self-deception and my thoughts went like this.
You know, he has some nerve, asking me to make sure everything is ready for him to sit down and relax. What would be nice would be if he would come home and take out the garbage, help with the dishes and serve me a second helping of dessert. He didn’t even say thank-you for making his favorite dessert in the first place. Doesn’t he realize everything that has to be done during this time of night? Cleaning up the messy kitchen and getting three children ready for bed? He’ll be lucky if I even get that far. I’m exhausted, I’ve been taking care of these kids all day, and now I have to do bedtime routine by myself, again. He should be around for bedtime routine more often. He should tell me to take it easy while he’s gone and he’ll take care of things when he gets home…
And so on. I’m pretty justified don’t you think?
Luckily, having read and somewhat understood the idea of self-betrayal, I recognized it when it showed its ugly face in my heart. I finished my tasks quickly and without further complaint. I didn’t quite get things ready the way Richard had imagined, but at least when he returned I was pleasant and not bitter.
I don’t tell this story to make myself out to be a Saint. Richard would likely tell you that two out of three times I wouldn’t recognize self-deception or else I would ignore it and allow the anger to boil. He has certainly dealt with the bitter Jo. But I tell you because it is a wonderful concept that can heal and help relationships and I want to share.
In a nutshell, self-betrayal is defending our actions when we make the choice not to do what our heart and conscience told us we should. But read the book. And then read it again. It is full of truth and insight.