Monday, January 21, 2013

Denial, a human trait

Why do we insist on denying our actions even when we are caught with our hands in the cookie jar, so to speak?

We are currently watching an athletic legend ~ or two ~ crumble in front of our eyes. Lance Armstrong, seven time winner of the Tour de France, has admitted he wanted to win at all costs. He not only participated in doping himself, he apparently led others to do so as well.

As people chat about this over and over and over around me, what I hear is most disturbing to them is not the doping, it was his denial of it. He was accused of doping years ago and denied doing it. No proof was found ~ and he apparently continued the practice. More accusations and more denials followed. The general public is outraged, though some more vocally than others. Yet again, the doping charge is not at the core of the issue; the years of denial are.

In recent years, many athletes have fallen into disgrace because of doping ~ enhancing their chances to win big by using performance-enhancing means. None under scrutiny as long as Armstrong. So doping itself is less the issue.

Why do we automatically deny? What is it within our psyche that keeps us from admitting, "I did it. You caught me. I'm sorry."? It is something deep. Every child caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar says, "No, Mommy, I'm not taking a cookie before dinner." Every youth who gets the first dent in the family car exclaims, "Wow! Where did that come from?"

In the American mythos, we have a story (which, deep down, we know isn't true) about the Father of our Nation, George Washington, saying, "I cannot tell a lie, I cut down the cherry tree." Why would we need that kind of myth if it wasn't a general characteristic of humans to deny?

I have no answer to this.... Denial is a human trait, yet we want those in the limelight, our athletes, politicians, ministers, entertainers, etc., to have either no need to deny or the superhuman capacity to admit fault.

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