Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it. ~ George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
The thing about denial is that it doesn’t feel like denial when it’s going on. ~ Georgina Kleege, Sight Unseen
The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we’re afraid. ~ Richard Bach
This week there have been several circumstances at work that have had me thinking a lot about denial. Yes, as Mark Twain said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” – Denial is a very strong force, and indeed can be a cage that traps its victims and causes severe damage. I believe, as Richard Bach states, that denial is tied strongly to fear. Reality can be incredibly scary, and having to confront a scary reality is never easy.
When we are given information that we do not want to deal with, it is often easier to ignore it, or even actively fight against it. In schools we see this often with parents and children with learning issues. They will often vehemently deny problems, not because they are bad people, but because they are scared, or perhaps even because they do not feel they have the strength to really confront the issues at hand. We also see this medically all of the time – which is why C. Northcote Parkinson mentions that “Delay is the deadliest form of denial.” Indeed, as we delay getting the proper medical diagnosis and treatment we can actually empower disease to continue to run its course until it is too late to treat. I wonder how many cancer patients may have been cured, or entered remission, if only they had been brave enough to have a lump or spot looked at immediately. While I do not blame them for their fear, it is so sad to think that their fear may have actually created their worst nightmare. If fear of dying from cancer prevented them from seeking a diagnosis for many months, sadly, their fear may have created a graver situation.
I wish there was an easy way to defeat and destroy denial. I believe it starts with love and support for the person in denial. They need to understand that they will be supported (or their spouse/ child/ etc. will be supported) while they work to resolve whatever issue/ concern/ or situation needs to be resolved. The person needs to know that they are not alone and that, ultimately, things will work out (one way or another). It is hard to learn there are medical issues a person may have to face, and faith and hope for being victorious does help to conquer the denial (there is more chance of being victorious the quicker someone is able to let go of denial). Furthermore, if a child is having educational issues, the sooner they are understood, the sooner a plan can be set in motion to assist the child in making the necessary academic gains. Improvement is always possible with the right diagnosis and treatment – little is possible without proper understanding of the issues.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 NIV
Today, 178 days ’til 40, I will challenge myself to reach out with compassion to those around me who are exhibiting symptoms of denial. I will remind myself that they are operating out of fear and that fear can be paralyzing. My goal is to help families understand that the truth will set them free, as by knowing the truth they can create plans to assist them as they move forward.