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Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 
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The Power of Deceit

By Tom Petersen
www.HisWorkInProgress.com

CBNMoney.comWe all have a particular skills or strength. My special skill is pretty handy. I am a master manipulator.

By concealing truth, making passionate arguments and simply lying my socks off, I consistently get my way. The person I deceive never really understands what happened to him. One minute he’s going along, cheerfully thinking he’s successfully living out his faith at work. But once I’ve crossed his path, he finds himself worshipping a false idol, spreading malicious gossip or stepping on others to get ahead. Best of all, by the time he’s figured out what happened, I’ve already moved on. I amaze myself how good I am at this!

But there is one problem with my master manipulation powers. I can only consistently fool one person: me.

Powerless against others
I try my super-deceiver power on others, but I get nowhere. Despite my pleas, my mom still shows my baby pictures to strangers. My wife rolls her eyes when I try to convince her that our family entertainment gap can be filled only with expensive electronics. My children do not believe I know the meaning of the word “cool,” let alone possess any attributes to claim it for myself.

But when it comes to self-deception, I score big. I can convince myself to do all kinds of things that aren’t in my own best interest.

I did it again the other day. I know I should speak words of blessing when I talk about my coworkers. Yet when a colleague hadn’t done several tasks, which prevented me from accomplishing my work, I complained loudly to my boss. Rather than try to work out a solution, I deceived myself into thinking that complaining and criticizing would demonstrate that I had superior leadership skills. Surely – I fooled myself into thinking – my boss would realize I was not to blame. In fact, I was convinced that she would award me a promotion to lift me above such obstructionist colleagues!

But just as my manipulations can’t convince my mother to hide the baby book, so my bluster failed to convince my boss that I was right and my colleague was at fault. Instead, I’m sure I came out of my diatribe looking small and petty. And by the time I realized what happened, the damage was done. I had duped myself again!

A multitude of manipulations
When I think about it, I realize I tell myself all kinds of lies. I spend money I don’t need to spend and convince myself that it’s justified. After all, I earned it! (And everyone deserves a 10-CD collectors’ set of Real Rockin’ Hits of the ‘70s.) I reject my children’s requests for my time, saying there will be time for that later. And (this one’s my favorite) I choose not to tell people about my faith, convincing myself that they will realize I am a Christian just by the way I live my life. (Which explains why people aren’t exactly beating down the door for me to share my testimony.)

Not the first one to fail here
The Bible warns against this deception. Jeremiah comes right out and quotes God on this topic in verse 37:9: “thus says the Lord, ‘do not deceive yourselves.’”  Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:18. And although he challenged the church at Ephesus to be wary of the deception of others, his words apply to my own self-deceit.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:6.

Interestingly, a few verses later, Paul also suggests an antidote to that kind of deception. “But all things become visible when they are exposed to light.” Ephesians 5:15 NASB.
Because I have proven myself untrustworthy on my own, I need someone to serve as the light, preventing me from working my deceptive powers on myself. The men who serve as my accountability partners – wise men who are on to my wily ways – help me see that my self-lies and deceptions are really just hollow excuses and rationalizations. They don’t let me get away with anything.

And no matter how hard I try to convince them that I am much wiser and righteous than they are, they always seem to see right through me. Apparently, obvious transparency is another one of my super powers.


Send Tom an e-mail at tom@tomcpetersen.com

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 

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