“Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” – Psalm 32:2
I was 9, it was Sunday afternoon and our family was visiting my cousin’s home. Jack was the kid who had all the neat stuff. He had pets; fish, gerbils and a 3-word Parrot. He had an arsenal of toys; cool squirt guns, a bow and arrow, BB guns. He had the latest tech; a cassette tape recorder – which we hid underneath the kitchen table where my mom and my aunt were ‘chatting’ about the family. We recorded 15 minutes of their ‘chat’ and played it back for them. We thought it hilarious; they did not.
But that day, Jack had something new – a toy navy set. Actually, he had two opposing navies, one grey and one blue; destroyers, cruisers, flattops and battleships. They were small, the battleships being only two inches long, but highly detailed with flat bottoms so you could place them on the floor. I was mesmerized, before me a vast formation – blue against grey. We spent the entire afternoon deploying and re-deploying our fleets. I felt like an Admiral.
When it was time to go, I slipped one of the blue battleships into my jean’s pocket. Then I performed strategic mental-maneuver (and repeated many times since): I intentionally ‘forgot’ it was there.
You see, if I forgot it was there, then it wasn’t stealing, it was just forgetting. In fact, if I forgot quick enough, then I wouldn’t even notice that I was forgetting. The idea of ‘stealing’ wouldn’t even occur to me – since I wouldn’t remember putting the ‘whatever-it-was’ into my pocket. Pretty neat trick, huh?
Using this simple internal maneuver, I found out, you can do what you want and feel OK about it. All you have to do is to pretend that you ‘don’t know’ what you ‘do know’. It is a free pass, a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card. Do what you want – but just remember to forget that you are doing it!
If you get good at it, you can move from ‘forgetting what you know’ to ‘forgetting what you did’. For example, you can say unkind things to people and then say, “I didn’t say it like that.” Or even, “I didn’t say it at all.” And you can maintain this alternate reality with a level of certainty, even to the point of believing it yourself. The trick is to remember to not remember. See how handy it is?
You can apply this to emotions too. “I’m not angry, I am fine. Really!” “No, I am not anxious, just a little tired.” You can eliminate painful memories as well. “That didn’t happen to me!”
Let’s call this maneuver: Inner Deceit. It is the ‘ability to ‘not know’ what you ‘do know’. Once you master the power of inner deceit, you feel like you can change reality. Dizzying.
I could have that battleship and not remember how I got it. I could feel OK about it. I could stave off challenges, like when my brother asked, “Where’d you get that?” I shrugged and said somewhat convincingly (since I had forgotten), “I dunno,” and put it back into my pocket.
Turns out, people have an innate ability to shove things into a mental-pocket. We are actually pretty good at ‘not knowing’ what we ‘do know’. We do it all the time, sliding pieces of reality into a dim inner vault and hold them there. And, at the same time, we can chew gum and carry normal conversation. It is an amazing ability.
When I got home that Sunday evening, I went to my room and closed the door. I sat on the edge of my bed and pulled out the blue battleship. I sailed it across the waves on my bedspread for a while. Then I put it in a cigar box that I used for nickels, trinkets, super balls and such. I never confessed. I never took it back to my cousin Jack. No one said anything to me; I never said anything to anyone. I closed the lid. I don’t think I ever played with it again. I don’t know what became of it.
I suppose it sank into the Sea of Forgetting that I created. An amazing ability – to speak those cold grey waters into existence. An amazing ability – to deep-six all sorts of troublesome realities and feelings into those waters. I sometimes wonder what all is down there. If I wanted to, could I salvage any of those parts of myself? This makes me uneasy, because I can’t even remember all the things I’ve forgotten.
That is the cost of Inner Deceit. Repressed battleships displace a lot of water. The volume necessary to cover them begins to flood more and more of the real ground of your life. The things you want to remember, the things you want to enjoy, get confused with the things you want to avoid. You lose track of what’s real and what isn’t.
Inner Deceit starts with floating your boat (or fantasy), but ends up sinking your soul.
Blessed is the man….in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.