Monday, June 6, 2011

The Power of Denial and Compartmentalization

     I'm glad Rep. Anthony Weiner admitted his indiscretions today. I'm not happy about it, but I'm glad because it gives me a chance to address something that has such a hold on so many people, denial and compartmentalization. The married New York lawmaker was caught up in a scandal involving lewd pictures of himself that he sent to some female facebook friends. At first he denied it claiming his account was hacked. But today he came clean.
     In my studies about sexual addiction, I read that someone has to be scared enough to change (or angry or frustrated enough), and for too many men, it takes being caught before a true confession comes out. Why is this? Why do so many men live secret lives when their  appearances depict something completely to the contrary? Denial and compartmentalization make it all possible.
     Denial is something we develop when we are young. It is a defense mechanism. It keeps us safe from a painful truth. When I was in 9th grade, I still hadn't started showering daily before school. On one particular day, we were taking school pictures. This one kid in line took notice of my appearance and exclaimed, "Your hair's greasy!" I immediately responded with, "It is not!" But it was. He was right, but I was so embarrassed because of his declaration, that I had to defend myself from the painful and humiliating truth. After this incident, I immediately began showering daily.
     Rep. Weiner said in his press conference today that he was embarrassed to admit that he was involved in this and he didn't want to bring duress upon his wife. His denial defenses were in full swing.
     He also said, "If you're looking for some kind of deep explanation for this, I don't have one except to say that I'm very sorry." May I offer one? Compartmentalization. Men are very good at it. It helps them live out double lives and not go crazy because their actions radically contradict their morals and beliefs. In dealing with my sin cycle, I had to compartmentalize so I could live with myself. When I was tempted to act out, I would leave Christian, Pastor, and Husband Shane over here so I could go do what my flesh wanted to do. I even compartmentalized God, putting Him way up in heaven so I could indulge. I knew He could see me, but He was a universe away in my thinking, even though I was raised to believe that God dwells within us as Christians. And on the journey back from Sinful Shane to Christian Shane, I would ask forgiveness for my sins and then carry on with my normal looking life. 
     Sadly, this is the cycle so many men are trapped in. Denial and compartmentalization  are the bars on the prison cell, but silence is the lock. When men don't talk about their struggles, weaknesses and temptations, they stay bound and for many, it takes getting caught to change one's behavior. And in the meantime, they live a lie. That's what I was doing. I never spoke untruths from my mouth, but I led my wife to believe things were one way when they were actually another. That's deceitful. That's living a lie.  That's leaving behind a legacy I would never want to leave. And it's all made possible because of the power of denial and compartmentalization. 
     Brothers, if this is your life, please talk to someone. There may be consequences to telling the truth, but at least you won't have to be living a lie anymore. "Therefore, confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed," James 5:16. Confession + prayer = healing. 

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