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The Classical Defense Mechanism of Denial and 1 John 1:8-10

March 26th, 2006

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar,

and his word is not in us.”


(1 John 1:8-10, ESV)

The church phone number and the Wood & Huston Bank phone number are similar. In fact, it happens regularly, once or twice a week and sometimes even twice a day, that the church building gets calls intended for the Wood & Huston Bank. When these misdialed calls come into the office, the person on the other end often appears involved in the ego-defense mechanism of denial (a conscious or preconscious distortion of reality). The following is a typical interview: “Hello, Church of Christ, may I help you?” “Wood & Huston Bank?” “No, this is the church of Christ office.” “This isn’t Wood & Huston Bank?” “No, sorry.” “Well, that’s the number I dialed.” “They’re very close.” “Well, okay, if you say so.”

If denial is relevant when it comes to such trivial things as misdialed numbers, how much more applicable when it comes to being true to who we are as sinners. John 1:8-10 addresses this tendency to distort the reality of sin. Notice two distinct types of denial here: (1) Denial of sin as a potential concept (1:8), and (2) Denial of actual sin in one’s personal life.

Sin is being challenged on many levels today. Rather than accept personal responsibility for one’s own sins—other areas are being blamed instead. But, to deny the reality of sin, either in concept and/or behavior, is to deceive oneself, implicate God as a liar, and fail to acquire forgiveness and cleansing. Confess your sins, therefore (1 John 1:9).

-Robert M. Housby

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