“Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,” was a common expression I heard while growing up. It referred to hearing, seeing, and speaking of the best in people. This is certainly commendable, but this phrase can also be used to avoid seeing, hearing, and speaking about that which is dangerous and destructive. In our environment. In others. In ourselves. Denial is costly. Untruthful. Unloving.
How long did it take various countries to come to grips with the reality of Covid? How long did countries of the world fool themselves into thinking Russian troops would never attack Ukraine? How many devastating forest fires, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis will it take before we accept the reality of climate change?
I find there needs to be a balance in my life. If I look at photos of Ukraine and listen to updates about the war all day long, I feel overwhelmed with grief. I can only pray effectively and think reasonably about this distressing situation if I look away from it from time to time. Out of a heart of compassion, I mourn with those who mourn and pray for them. By looking at Jesus, who exemplified truth and grace, I find peace of mind and do what I can to help in some practical way.
I learned quite early in life how to deny the reality of unpleasant and unacceptable emotions, along with physical limitations. To “burn-out” was an approved practice. This proved to be very costly for me. It resulted in years of depression.
Recently, I’ve been listening to an audio version of An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling. I’m reminded, again, of how important it is to slow down and listen, to live in the reality of my humanity. I am not god. I need God. I need others. They need me. We are interdependent. A tendency to deny these bottom-line truths is a dangerous type of pride. It flows out of unreality and leads to isolation. Isolation increases our denial of reality.
Greatness arises in those who in true humility are simply themselves, nothing more and nothing less, who live in honesty, not pretense. Living in reality gives us the energy and wisdom to do what is truly loving.
We must guard against denial, first of all, in our own hearts.
Jesus, measuring tape so true, I stand myself next to you. Here, I’m safe to be alone. You tell me how much I’ve grown; Then show me what I cannot see — The sin that still resides in me; The habit I still need to break, The new one I must create. By your grace, I succeed, Forever, you intercede. I rejoice in your acceptance. Your presence is my evidence. Daily, you give me a song. You speak and I know I belong. I’m not satisfied with the norm. I want you to fully transform My heart, my mind, and my soul; I want to be holy and whole.