I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about rationalization. Almost without exception, people are able to rationalize the things they do no matter how bad. If they want to continue doing something they shouldn’t, they will find reasons that it’s OK to continue. As I’ve talked about this topic with a variety of people (thanks to Dono, Keith, David, Nicole, Darlene, Mike, Laura, Heather, Tami), a pattern has emerged. In almost all cases, the rationalization follows this pattern:
1. I have some unmet “need”
2. I deserve to have all my needs met because I’m special
3. God wants me to be happy, obviously
4. If God wants me to be happy and this makes me happy, it MUST be OK
5. If God thinks it’s OK, then people who disagree are just dense
6. If people look down on me for it, then I will cut them off, because God is all that matters
And so, in six simple steps, we go from blatant sin, to God wanting us to do it and rejecting anyone who disagrees. I know it seems ridiculous, but think about it. You can probably think of examples of this in people you personally know. Feel free to substitute “God” for “Nature” if you’re one of those anti-God people. The argument works just as well. I’ve witnessed some outrageous behavior justified through this thought process. To the non-rationalizer, it seems absurd. To the rationalizer, it seems like such simple logic that anyone incapable of understanding must be stupid. Or judgmental. Or fill in your own word.
As people rationalize, they become entrenched in their ridiculous thought process. Over time, they become completely impervious to logic, common sense, Biblical wisdom, or any other form of thought that challenges their house of cards. By the time someone has engaged in this for 5 or 10 years or more, the chance of them ever seeing the error of their ways is practically zilch. I’m not saying the Holy Spirit can’t move in someone that’s hardened themselves… just that it’s very rare.
The hardest part for the rationalizer isn’t acknowledging the foolish arguments they’ve used to rationalize – it’s that if they admit the error, they’d have to stop engaging in the behavior… and, well… they LIKE doing it (whatever it is). Never mind that such behavior is almost always selfish/self-destructive/other-destructive/obnoxious/etc. The rationalizer assumes that they are justified and that their actions don’t affect anyone else. And like with all other silly notions that go with this thought process, they’re dead wrong.
Sin is sin. Sin always affects those surrounding you in negative ways, whether you acknowledge it or even care. It leaves a wake of hurt and pain behind you that you’re completely oblivious to. I am by no means perfect. Ask my wife (of course she’d be nice and tell you I’m awesome). But I assure you, I do plenty of things wrong. I bottle things up till they bubble out in negative ways. I hurt her feelings because I say things poorly or without thinking. I act in immature and manipulative ways sometimes without even realizing I’m doing it. But I don’t make excuses. I acknowledge my mistakes (once I become aware) and I apologize.
Rationalization is the perfect way to never grow as a person. To heck with that.