As we flee from the truth about ourselves, the shortest distance between two points is a labyrinth.

During the 1930s in England, criticism of the Third Reich could ruin a person’s name. Warnings of Nazi aggression were called “hysterical.” Those who warned were called “alarmist.” William Manchester in The Last Lion (vol. 2) tells us how for years before 1939, in speech after speech, one newspaper article after another, Winston Churchill hammered away at his own leaders, trying to dent their self-deception.

It seems that the good people in government could not get themselves to believe that the great nation of Germany was in the hands of criminals. Why not? Because if they let themselves believe that, then the possibility of war began to gleam. And almost nobody in England could think realistically of war. Desperate, crimson memories from World War I were too fresh.

Fifty years later we know some of the cost of that self-deception.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

(1 John 1:8)

Self-deception is a shadowy phenomenon in which the same person is deceiver and deceived. We become our own dupes.

The phenomenon is familiar to most of us. We know folks who deceive themselves about aging. Using the latest slang, fashions, or even surgical techniques, they cling to their image of a youthful self.

For the last ten years, insurance companies have published people’s accounts of their auto accidents. People offer explanations like this: “The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck my front end.” Or this, “As I approached the intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision.” Try this: “I was driving along when suddenly a cow went under my car without ...

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