Truth be told, this tendency can be easier to see, or at least acknowledge, in other people than it is in ourselves, because it is such a knee-jerk reaction. Recently I was struck by how the apostle Peter offers an object lesson in the kind of escalating efforts we can make to avoid situations when we are afraid of being revealed in some way we don’t want.
I have noted previously how he factors into what I consider the saddest sentence in the Bible, as the Gospels tell how Peter “followed at a distance” after Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane. Too committed to completely walk away, too scared to go all-in. What a miserable place to be.
Remember that he was hanging out in the courtyard as Jesus was being grilled by the chief priests and the elders, when some of those around him twigged that he had been part of Jesus’s gang. Over the course of the next little while, Peter tried to wriggle out of things with increasing desperation.
Step One: Deflect. When the first servant girl said he had been with Jesus, Peter simply feigned ignorance. “What, me? Don’t know what you are talking about, love, sorry.” Appearing offhand when you say this can lend it an added level of apparent sincerity.
Step Two: Deny. When the second servant girl tagged Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples, he realized he needed to up his game a bit. If trying to brush something off by pretending you don’t know what is going on is a half-lie, this is the full-blown thing. Short, declarative statements can be best. But you’re not just dodging any more, you’re deceiving.
Step Three: Distract. When Peter was finally pressed a bit more firmly by those around him about his identity, by people who offered evidence for their view of him, he went into full self-protection mode, pulling out the big guns. A clear sign of his anger, Peter’s swearing was an attempt to put his challengers on the defensive—just as we can resort to pointing out other people’s stuff when they are getting into ours.
These are all just varying degrees and manners of dishonesty, of course. Call it 3-D defensiveness.
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