Family, Marriage, Counsel
Deceitful Heart Syndrome
by Ed Vasicek
One of my favorite childhood jokes is this one. The teacher asks for a volunteer: "Who would like to make up a sentence that includes the word 'beans?'"
One boy raises his hand and responds, "We are all human beans."
No, this article is not about the speaking habits of some people who omit "ing" endings. It is about understanding an important dynamic about human beings, one I call, "Deceitful Heart Syndrome."
You have an argument with your spouse. You know you are not perfect, but you believe your spouse is wronger, err, less righter, uh, more to blame than you are. It somehow always seems this way.
Come to think of it, the same thing happens at work or with the neighbor. Somehow, although imperfect, you are always less to blame. If the statistical likelihood of all this has you wondering, bingo: you are ready to discover "Deceitful Heart Syndrome."
Larry Crabb has done some fine work exposing this problem, though he labels it, "Justified Self-Centeredness." But my term, "Deceitful Heart Syndrome" is preferable for two reasons: 1) it is closely aligned to the Scriptures (especially Jeremiah 17:9) and 2) although it includes self-centeredness, it encompasses more.
Jeremiah 17:9 reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
Ecclesiastes 9:3b reads, "Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives..."
Proverbs 28:26 reads, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool..."
How Does Deceitful Heart Syndrome Show Itself?
What do these verses imply? That we lie to ourselves in very sophisticated and disguised ways; our own hearts deceive us. Deceitful heart syndrome shows itself in the following ways:
Secular Studies Have Confirmed Jeremiah 17:9
We now have physical evidence for the reality of Deceitful Heart Syndrome. Dr. Richard Restak is a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, and considered one of the world's top authorities on the brain. In his book, The New Brain, he refers to research done by Dean Shibata of the University of Washington (Seattle). Note what Restak writes:
“Shibata finds that making decisions that affect you personally enhances activity in part of your frontal lobes…As a rule, you do not activate that area when thinking about events that do not involve you personally. ‘When people make decisions that affect their own lives, they will utilize emotional parts of the brain, even though the task itself may not seem emotional,’ says Shibata.
Restak continues, “…But keeping our reasoning power uncontaminated by our emotions isn’t as easily accomplished as we have been led to believe. Many times the influence of our emotions on our reasoning impedes self-knowledge…” In other words, our hearts (minds) ARE deceitful, and because of this, we do not face ugly realities about ourselves.
The implications of this research are profound. It explains why people who give good advice often do not practice what they preach. It also argues for the importance of having close friends and being social; others will challenge our corruptions of reality.
Overcoming Deceitful Heart Syndrome
The most effective way to address this problem is for a believer to die and go to heaven or to be raptured. But while we are here on earth, we will struggle with this. The best treatment, in one word, is humility.
To control this syndrome, I must get good counsel from others, realize my own propensity to deceive myself, and believe what trusted friends say about me (or the past), sometimes despite my better instincts. I could call this, "humility in practice." This trust of others means a surrendering of pride. And I must face that my recollection of conflicts, etc, is undependable, that my ability to think unemotionally when decisions involve me or my loved ones is diminished, and must refuse to believe that lop-sided interpretation of reality that always puts me in the right—or at least the "less wrong."
Reprinted from the May 2006 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
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