I keep coming back to Paul Tripp’s excellent book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. It is one of the best books I have read on how to counsel people and really how to counsel myself. In one the appendices he lists ten ways in which people are blind when they come to him for counseling. Read this list and see if we don’t all think this way. They:
- Believe they have an accurate view of self.
- See their primary problem as being sinned against.
- See the difficult things in their lives as trials rather than consequences of their own choices and behavior.
- See problems as a direct result of their neediness.
- Think they are wise and have received much wise counsel.
- Have analyzed their lives and believe they have insight into what is going on and why.
- Think they have a clear sense of what is valuable and important.
- See themselves as having a mature knowledge of Scripture and theology.
- See themselves as holy; that is wanting and doing the right things.
- Already see themselves as repentant.
Tripp uses II Corinthians 10:3-6 as a paradigm for how to remove our blindness. So what should that list look like if our eyes are opened? These my formulations, not Tripp’s, but they are derived from his book. Direct quotes from his book are in quotes.
- I see only a distorted view of myself in a carnival mirror. I am blind to who I truly am. I need God’s Word brought to me through preaching and the Christian community to help me see myself accurately.
- My primary problem is that I sin against others, not that they sin against me. My life will change when I kill my own sin, not when dwell on how others are treating me.
- I reap what I sow. I harvest what I plant. The difficult things in my life are a result of my own selfish and sinful choices. What I have gotten is fair. I am not being ripped off by God or anyone else. When God gives me hard things it is for my good. Again he is not being unfair.
- I am not needy. God has given me all I need in Christ. When I make my needs important I put myself on the throne and make myself the sun around which all things move. I enter every situation with “silent demands” and I “respond with anger” when someone does not meet my needs. My needs have been met in Christ. Therefore I should enter every situation giving, not taking.
- I am not wise and usually I listen to people who tell me what I want to hear. Therefore I pretend I am getting good counsel, but I am lying. I pretend I am “on a quest for wise counsel” when really I am on a “quest to support [my] point of view.”
- I do not understand my life nor do I have a good interpretation of what is going on and why. I spend time analyzing my life, but I only see what I want to see. I need someone to remind me that” real insight comes from God’s Word, not from my ability to analyze my life.”
- I do not act on what is truly important and valuable. I give lip service to the things that matter to God, but I act on the things that matter most to me. I pretend that my world revolves around the values that God has set, but in reality it revolves around what I need, want, and value. The things that truly matter are often left undone.
- I do not have a mature understanding of Scripture or theology. My belief that I do stunts my growth, increases my pride, and causes me to refuse to listen to others. If I am to grow I must begin with my own immaturity. I must realize that knowledge does not equal obedience.
- I believe I am okay and righteous. I give lip service to my sinfulness, but in reality I think I get most things right and I think most of my desires are holy. The reality is that indwelling sin is in my heart and life. My desires can be twisted. My actions can be devious and filled with malice. I am usually blind to my own sinfulness.
- My repentance is shallow and weak. It does not go deep enough because I do not see myself as I really am. I take my sins lightly and glide over them. Therefore I do not bear the fruit of repentance. I talk about confession and repentance and at times I even weep over my sins. But I do not change and therefore true repentance has not happened.
One further thought on this. Tripp is not saying that we are perpetually stuck in this blindness. A lot of “grace” people talk as if we can never get past this. He is saying that until we see ourselves as we really are we cannot begin to grow. Growth begins with recognizing we are blind. But when we realize this, we really start to grow.