Just as it is impossible for a fish to see he lives in water, it is impossible for a person to see his own personality flaws and blind spots clearly; he is marinated in the stuff. Almost by definition, your habits seem wise to you; otherwise you would chuck them in favor of better ones. I have learned this principle through the years: Nobody does anything for no reason. People adopt patterns of behavior because they think they work. They do things to protect themselves; they respond to the world in ways they think afford them security.
Apart from a total makeover by the Spirit, we are all riddled with theories that we live by. I dare say even Christians live by their theories, all the while thinking that they live by the Bible. The first personal "theory" I can remember dates back to high school. I really believed that the best way to get a boy to like you was to be standoffish, not to say, mean. A theory, once firmly established, is nearly unbreakable. This is because you skew all the contrary evidence that comes flying against it.
In my marriage, I lived by the theory that if I gave my husband the "silent treatment," he would feel so bad about my alienation of affection that he would pay more attention to me. Didn't work. It was meant to be a temporary strategy, you understand, but it hardened into petrified armor and had the effect of repelling rather than attracting. The Lord's way never even occurred to me. If I had merely applied the minimal standards regarding the treatment of enemies, let alone husbands ("Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you" Luke 6:27), I would have done better.
So today when I met Kathleen and she disclosed to me that from the first time she had met me she discerned a streak of skepticism, I decided that was valuable information for me from a clear-eyed source and I should take it seriously. I saw the truth of it: I have often sat listening to a person who was telling me about what the Lord has done for her and have nodded attentively-and not believed a word she was saying.
After Kathleen left, I remembered a verse from the Bible and it seemed spoken directly to me:
"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart…" (Hebrews 3:12).
So if you see a spirit of unbelief in me, I want to hear about it. No fish can see that he is surrounded by water, even if it's coming out his ears.