“We desperately want to be a good person in our own eyes, and we will rearrange everything to make it happen.”
– Brant Hansen
What would happen if we just admitted it: we’re not very good people.
We may want to be to be good. We may try real hard to be. But it’s actually much harder than it looks to be a really good person.
And oddly enough, one giant obstacle to our being good is to think we already are.
It’s called Self-Righteousness.
Pride is one of the things that Jesus warns us against again and again. Yet we often remain addicted to it. (I speak from experience.)
Pride disqualifies us from joining the spiritually elite.
Biases that Bind
“Being unaware of how unaware we are is merely one way to be wrong. It’s just one of the many options in our Tool Belt of Wrong.”
That’s what Brant Hansen says in his book, The Truth About Us: The Very Good News About How Very Bad We Are.
We can fool ourselves in many ways into thinking we’re better than we are. We may not be familiar with the nomenclature of every bias, but we are very familiar with the practice of them.
Here are a few biases that keep us from being better people.
• Confirmation Bias
We want our decisions to be right. So we actively seek out information to support our own views and reject information that contradicts ours.
• Hostile Attribution Bias
We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but we assume the worst motives in others.
• Actor-Observer Bias
When I mess up, it’s because of external circumstances. When you mess up, it’s because of who you are.
We can conjure up hundreds of recognized cognitive biases to assure that we’re one of the “Good People” and others are the the “Bad People.” Brant says we each have our very own PR firm—and that we should fire them.
“We need to become more aware of how we think, because our thought processes are skewed. Our reasoning is a tool, and it’s not the precise, calculating, impartial tool we like to think it is. Every waking moment, it’s put to work to defend us and our conception of our good selves.”
That’s the bad news.
Stop Defending Your Goodness
But the good news trumps it.
When we admit, “I am not a good person,” we no longer have to protect our egos or justify our actions or be judgmental of others. That is a blessing from God.
“If we begin to understand God’s blessing over us, we can be freed from so much of this. There’s simply no longer any need to defend our supposed goodness.”
Trusting in Jesus’s goodness instead of our own brings rest. It only requires laying down our pride.
“According to Jesus, there are no good people, only humble people and proud people. He favors the humble and opposes the proud.”
When we stop using our energy to defend ourselves, from trying to prove we’re right, to up our moral ranking, we can accept that we are “loved by Someone who already knows the truth about us.”
“Our value to God isn’t determined by our goodness at all. He loves us because that’s what he does. He loves. Yes, I’ve heard that a thousand times, and maybe you have too. But it’s only when I begin to believe it that I can not only admit I’m not a ‘good person’ but do it joyfully, knowing my value isn’t attached to my morality.”
We’ve received quite a break. The ultimate break. It’s only when we realize we’ll never meet the mark of perfection that we realize we don’t have to. Brant quotes Philip Yancey:
“Ask people what they must do to get to heaven and most reply, ‘Be good.’ Jesus’ stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry, ‘Help!’”
– Philip Yancey
Anyone with an attitude of moral superiority never made a good impression on Jesus. Including us. Our claims of, “But at least I don’t…” don’t get anywhere with him. But dependence on him does.
“Dependence isn’t weakness. The denial of our dependence is.”
Humility frees us to lean on God instead of our own self-righteousness.
In the last chapter of The Truth About Us, Brant says this about himself. Maybe we can each substitute our own name for his.
“So, yes, I’m Brant Hansen, and I’m not a good person. I seem like a good guy, maybe, but you don’t really know me. You don’t know my thoughts. You don’t know all my real motives, and you know what? Neither do I. But I’m convinced the only one who really knows me loves me more than anyone else. More than I can imagine. It’s a big relief.”
I’ve been spiritually challenged by every Brant Hansen book I’ve read. The Truth About Us is no exception. My thanks to Net Galley for the review copy.
- Repeat After Me: “I don’t know!”
- Don’t Be Stingy with Your Encouragement