You Collude In Your Own Death (Season 2020, Episode 11)
Play episode · 1 hr 38 min
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My pondering began with Bible study. Not a big shock since you already know how important Faith is in my life. I'd heard the story my entire life, sitting in the pew as a little boy listening to old preachers tell the story recorded in Luke 15. The story of the prodigal son.

As a little kid I sat there wondering why this son got a wild hair to confront his dad and make such a bold request, but mostly I wondered why the father gave him what he wanted. The adults in my life wouldn't have so indulged me, I thought.

He takes the money and whatever else he got and left home. That baffled me, too. I'd never had the urge to run away from home. Well, not for long, any way. There were days, you know? But I figured I had it pretty well. And that's where it started for me. Wondering why this son didn't realize how good things were. Of course, I knew the end of the story. I know in advance how bad his life got. Mostly I wondered how long he was in that far country doing whatever he was big enough to do. I wondered why he had to lose everything before he gained clarity that things back home were really great.

That was likely my first serious pondering about delusion and my introduction to the fact - yes, FACT - that every human being is capable of self-deception. Seeing things inaccurately. Believing things that aren't true.

Some months I put my own sermon about this story online, but I approached it from the perspective of the father, not the son. The father, by the way, did not deceive himself. He was seeing clearly the entire time. And thankfully, his clarity served both his sons.

Self-deception and delusion is an everyday conversation in my work. Twenty years ago I bought and read a book, captivated by the joining of 2 topics I was interested in, leadership and self-deception. "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box" by The Arbinger Institute.

Leaders of every ilk can be prone to self-deception. But leaders aren't unique. It's a complex issue and our quest to simplify things likely contributes to our delusion or false assumptions. We like neat and tidy things and most things aren't neat or tidy.

Fast forward and the topic of delusion and self-deception intersect with another conversation point, addiction.  In my executive and leadership coaching work, I often have conversations with clients whose families and lives have been horribly impacted by addiction. From people abusing prescription medications, to people not abusing - but people taking prescribed medications that have completely altered their personality, to people abusing alcohol and even people consumed by gambling or other addictions.

Almost weekly I have a conversation with people whose family is struggling to help a member of their clan get out of the pit. They tell stories of how the person just can't seem to think or see things accurately. Fogged over with chemicals that have impaired their ability, I'll often listen as they recite how smart, funny, and engaging the person was before they surrendered to some form of chemical dependency. Once in a while I hear about recovery. Like the prodigal son, it never happens quickly. In most cases, many years have elapsed before the self-deception and addiction are overcome.

Success stories are both rare and lengthy. I've yet to encounter a story of somebody who recovered quickly. The downward spiral is long and destructive. It seems it must get very bad before there's even hope of it getting better. I never understood it. I still don't.
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