On Sunday we talked about scams. Nobody likes to be scammed. I’ve heard horror stories of people losing thousands of dollars because they believed someone who pretended to be something they weren’t… But if we zoom in a little bit, most of us would admit that we run a scam everyday. We try to scam God, the people around us, and ourselves. We don’t do it intentionally, but we all do it.
I’m no psychologist, but I recently read an interesting article about Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance refers to the ability for humans to hold certain beliefs, yet do actions that go directly against those beliefs (AKA - a scam… I say one thing, but I do another). The presence of Cognitive Dissonance will often cause feelings of unease or discomfort because inside we recognize the difference between who we say we are and what we do.
You’ll see this all around: It’s the politician who opposes prostitution but is caught with a high priced call girl (A call girl isn’t REALLY a prostitute). It’s the addict who insists he/she is sober because they aren’t using that drug anymore, but has instead switched to a less harmful substance. It’s when you get denied for your dream job, and then tell everyone it was a dead-end job and the interviewer was a jerk anyways. To put it in more simple terms, it’s the process of self-justification.
Most of the time it happens unconsciously… In fact, it works better that way. Imagine if we said to ourselves, “Okay self… I’m going to convince you that, even though he’s not, this person is idiot, so that you feel better about being rejected….” Instead, we just do it without thinking about the process - “I was rejected because that guy is an idiot.”
One author writes, “The talent for self-justification is surely the greatest achievement of the human brain. When it comes to justifying actions, every human being acquires the intelligence of an Einstein, the imagination of a Shakespeare, and the subtlety of a Jesuit.”
Let’s be real… We all do it. We all run scams on ourselves. We run scams on God. And we run scams on others. Our heart says “We want this, so we should go for it…” But our moral compass says, “Nope that’s not what you need.” And this tension is where a scam become inevitable. The only way to fix this problem, is to cure the source of the problem… The human heart.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it? (17:9).
So if that’s true, what do we do? It kind of wrecks the whole life philosophy of “Follow Your Heart,” doesn’t it?
What if, instead of following our heart, we surrendered our heart to follow God? In other words, don’t follow your heart (which is deceitful and will leave you feeling the discomfort of saying one thing, but doing another), but surrender that heart to the Lordship of Jesus. Jon Bloom says,
Note that Jesus did not say to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe in your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
If you want to quit running a scam on yourself and everyone around you, it starts by being honest with yourself. Remember that your heart will always tell you what you want, not what you need. It does not have your best intentions in mind.
So, listen to your heart, yes, but only so you can know yourself better. And then surrender that knowledge of yourself to God so that He can transform and change your heart to be more like Him.
Running a scam may work for a bit, but before long the desires of your heart will overpower the front you’re putting up. Instead, quit pretending you’re perfect, quit running the heart scam, and with brutal honesty and transparency, give that heart to Jesus.