I was watching a program about crime in which a guy was featured who makes a living by shoplifting. He takes orders from people of items that they want, steals the items, and then sells the items to those who ordered them at a drastically reduced rate. The twist in all of this is that the shoplifter views all of this as a way of helping others, enabling them to obtain the latest new “thing” which they otherwise could not afford. He actually boasted on camera about how much good he was doing for others! In another program a boss fires a manager in the firm, financially ruining the poor man’s life; later the same boss re-hires the previously fired man and is overheard saying to someone that he fired the guy so that he could later re-hire him and give the guy an experience of hope after the crushing experience of hopelessness.
WHAT?! What kind of screwed-up logic is that? I suspect that such a view of goodness is the result of a lifetime of self-deception, a lifetime of refusing to face up to things both internal and external. I wonder if there isn’t at least some deep, secret part of the hearts of these two individuals wherein they are able to admit to themselves that what they are doing is wrong. So…is there a price to pay for chronic indulgence in self-deception?
Well… yes, and that price is a disconnectedness from realities both exterior and interior. We live in an age of instant connectedness… email, twitter, cell-phones… all of which enable us to be almost instantly in-touch with others, which just show that the primary connectedness that we seek is relational and not technological. In relations with others, however, comes the issue of vulnerability, and the possibility of being hurt. It is a sad irony that some people both fear the vulnerability inherent in connectedness to others, as well as experience a deep yearning for the intense connectedness which such vulnerability allows. Is a life of fearing that which we yearn for a life at all? In the end, the primary casualty of a life lived in self-deception is the self. If, as many religions posit, there is a hell… in the end I suspect that it is one of our own making.