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Telling yourself the truth William Backus and Mary Chapian Essay

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“Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.”

-Albert Camus (The Fall)

HEY!

The meaning of truth eludes most people, if not all of them. Yet, to make our lives simpler and more comfortable, we project ‘true’ images of ourselves to others, so that a point of acceptable and amicable consensus may be reached for the peace of all concerned. But what happens when we know that our projection does not even have a semblance of truth about it? The answer to this all important question is for anyone to guess – it is the need to lead an easy life, if not a happy and spiritual one. However, human sorrow and misfortune do not always arise out of sheer bad luck or situational factors. Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus and Marie Chapian delves deeper into exceptionally insightful areas of psycho-spiritual counseling for self-improvement. Grounded on biblical wisdom, the book tells how individual responsibilities shape consequences of thoughts and actions. The authors adopt a methodology called ‘misbelief therapy’ to substantiate how we keep sulking about our misfortunes and unhappiness, not knowing that the onus rests on us to improve our lives. Misbeliefs, as observed by Backus and Chapian, are self-projected beliefs that we carefully preserve to justify the attitudes we show and the situations we undergo. Since we know deep within our hearts that such misbeliefs are not true, we tend to develop maladaptive behavioral patterns to adjust to how we carry ourselves before others. It makes us oblivious to how we are as normal individuals. Consequently, we try to pretend to be someone else, whereas in reality, we are different persons altogether having knowledge of our fundamental traits. Developing such misbeliefs can lead to mental instability and emotional flux. The authors discuss at length how humans first disobeyed God’s will by tasting the fruit of the forbidden tree. The subsequent fall from godlike stature was not at all an event of mere chance, but an inevitable outcome of man’s overt curiosity. The humans went against God’s will to embrace eternal suffering and repentance. Telling Yourself the Truth craftily documents how our attitudes and actions can directly thwart the divine master plan set by the Almighty for the wellbeing of humankind.[1] Backus and Chapian symbolically refer to the “pit of hell” to suggest the imposed discourses humans adapt to present themselves as others want them to be.[2]

The principles of misbelief therapy are particularly valid for defining happiness. Happiness is a concept which, just as truth, is ill-defined to a great extent. The authors posit that happiness stems out a true communion with God’s will and therefore, it can never be achieved through temporal counseling practices. They refer to Satan’s blatant lies in the beginning of Eden and how those lies were overpowered by Jesus Christ when he followed God’s Word to redeem the world from misery. According to the biblical terms, happiness and blessedness are closely linked with each other, with one being rooted in the other.

Blessed – happy, fortunate, prosperous and enviable – is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly. . . . But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law – the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God –.[3]

What is apparent from the biblical sources is that happiness does not come from defying God’s dictation. It is quite interesting to note from the context that the capacity to be happy and to remain happy lies in individual thought processes that are by no means susceptible to external stimuli or provocation. What we think is what we are, and what we are matters to us only, and not to others. The misbelief therapy helps and individual to supersede the lies with truths – the truths that permeate our value systems, the way we relate ourselves to the outer world with which we constantly interact; our expectations, moral awareness; demands and philosophies.[4] This is the viewpoint Backus and Chapian endorse post eloquently in the book.

YOU!

A close and personal reading of the book reminded me of a particular phase in my life. Following a relationship breakup that occurred some time back, I was undergoing a tremendous amount of mental agony and irritation. Mental agony is bound to occur with broken relationships. But my main concern was the irritation I was having because of my repeated failure to relate to my own identity. The pain of a loss gradually heals with time; but one cannot live with a broken identity and confusion over one’s image. That was precisely what was bothering me and putting me off to no extent. The fact that I was trying desperately to come out of the identity crisis made me stubborn and incommunicative. In fact I was telling myself time and again that nothing was really wrong with me and that I should maintain an aloof disposition in a tight-lipped manner. The implications of such behavior, as I came to know sooner, were quite serious. My family and friends began to misunderstand me and took me as a snob. My reluctant communication with all transmitted a misleading and confusing signal. My friends approached me with caution and discretion, so did my family members. Worse still, I, despite having no problem with self-control, was behaving in a manner that was questionable and extremely perplexing to people around me. Even I could recognize the foibles that were developing in me, but could not help being normal in the sane sense of the term! In my opinion, there was not even an iota of doubt that I had not been suffering from the loss anymore. It was what I had been thinking about others thinking about me that made me uncomfortable and nervy.

My situation then is quite similar to what Backus and Chapian discuss in Telling Yourself the Truth. I was lying to myself that my decision to keep a low profile had been correct. I needed to be what I used to be prior to the relationship breakup. Only then my friends and family members, and most importantly I, could come out of the confusing personality disorder. Therefore, as the authors argue, it was imperative for me to replace the brazen lies with self-redeeming truths, however unpleasant they might be, so as to let myself love and respect the person that had always resided in me.

LOOK!

Notwithstanding the incisive details about the self the book provides, I would like to differ on some points. Firstly, outright disposal of personal beliefs may turn out to be a risky proposition, for they help binding one’s persona with one’s root. At any given point of time, it is important to know who I was in the past to be able to acknowledge the changes that one undergoes with experience. Moreover, awareness of the past helps one not to repeat the same mistakes all over again. Secondly, life itself is a great learning curve and everything eventually settles down with time. So nobody should really take living on a theoretical account. Thirdly, if I sit to analyze my past, I have to do it in the hindsight and everything in the hindsight looks simpler. Therefore, my past is a lot clearer to me, or it ought to be, than my future. Nobody knows anything for certain about the future. Try as I may, I can never deny that my beliefs in the past, even if they were misbeliefs, were true then. This very realization is negated by Telling Yourself the Truth. Fourthly, the indispensability principle[5] articulated by the authors reduces the value of humans to a considerable extent. God is the Supreme Being in Christian beliefs. But being subordinate to God’s will all the time undermines human potential and forecloses the possibility of exploring uncharted horizons of knowledge and wisdom that lie amid the smallest and most trivial of incidents. Fifthly, one may have a keen spiritual propensity, or an inane ascetic demeanor, but that does not encourage stagnation of thoughts for once and all. In line with this logic, it is reasonable to say that certain misbeliefs are better be nurtured, so that we do not develop the habit of following extreme or absolute paths.

DO!

As professional counselors, the authors try to highlight how justness and precision of our thoughts can change the course of life we aspire to lead. The book may be of help to both counselees and would-be counselors. As for me, I would like to take this learning activity as a practical tool to improve my reasoning capabilities. The most critical challenge I face during self-analysis is the intrusion of subjective cognizance about my nature into the realms of objective representation of the same. To put it more precisely, my acute awareness of everything I say or do impedes my spontaneous capacity to rejoice with the flow, so to speak. I see no point in overburdening the mind with loads of farfetched and needlessly complicated assumptions that are of no apparent use to any of the immediate concerns I have at any given moment. Similarly, any normal individual is bound to have multifaceted characteristic traits. Given the multiple layers of cognitive dimensions one is inbred with, there is no reason why one will not react differently to same situations or stimulus. After all man is not a robotic creature which is programmed to respond in a specific manner under a specific scenario. To a great extent, as Crabb and Crabb argue, man will “forever remain a mystery”.[6] One must not lose sight of the fact that it is our own perceptual awareness about everything around us that we can revert back to anytime – be it at a moment of sudden pain or joy, or that of failure or triumph. But at the same time, fostering tons of misbeliefs for a long time may hamstring us cognitively, resulting in impaired level of understanding and communication.

As far as counseling is concerned, the book teaches me to apply certain techniques that are of great help to effective and qualitative psychological counseling. The concept of love for the self, as propounded by the authors, goes to show how an individual can capitalize on the sole wealthy possession s/he has, i.e., a beautiful mind, to bring about positive changes not just to himself/herself, but to everyone around. Our desires, our angers and frustrations, our longing for the unattainable are all time-honored – they fade away or pass into oblivion; but our mental faculties stay with us forever. We can only hone in the skills and aptitudes to make them stronger and sharper. I fully endorse the authors’ viewpoints on purging the soul by honestly confessing guilt and standing up fearlessly to divine judgment. Giving up falsified accounts of events or thoughts frees a mind from perpetual lamentations and prepares it to espouse veritable ways to love one and all. The authors’ mentioning of the image of Christ’s crucifixion brings back the memory of a book I once read and read it to my heart’s content – The Outsider, written by Albert Camus. Symbol of the Cross is a vivid and the most poignant reference to human suffering. Unlike the protagonist of The Outsider, who refused to tarnish his own image by standing up before God’s sagacity, I would prefer to take a different approach to this holy symbol of affliction. Provided I am counseling a person who refuses to let go his/her misbeliefs, I will use the Cross as a tangible reminder of God’s mercy unto transgressor souls.

Bibliography

Backus, William, and Marie Chapian. Telling Yourself the Truth. Minneapolis: Bethany House

Publishers, 2000.

Crabb Lawrence J., and Larry D. Crabb. Effective Biblical Counseling: A Model for Helping

Caring Christians Become Capable Counselors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

Myers, Ellen. “Counseling From the Biblical Creation Perspective: A Bibliographical Essay.”

Creation Social Science and Humanities Society. Available from http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v08n4p21.htm

[1] Ellen Myers, “Counseling From the Biblical Creation Perspective: A Bibliographical Essay,” Creation Social Science and Humanities Society, Available from http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v08n4p21.htm
[2] William Backus and Marie Chapian, Telling Yourself the Truth (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2000), 17-18.
[3] Ibid, in the introduction.
[4] Ibid, in the introduction.
[5] Ibid, 158.
[6] Lawrence J. Crabb and Larry D. Crabb, Effective Biblical Counseling: A Model for Helping Caring Christians Become Capable Counselors (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), 114.