This is a heavy book, and was a departure from his earlier, and more popular and “positive” book, The Road Less Traveled (which–full disclosure–I have not read).
Having dealt with “people of the lie” in my own life, and wanting to better understand “how they tick,” I gravitated toward this book. And I’m glad I did.
“People of the lie” are described as people who are committed to evil, and who are dead set against the “constraints” of their conscience.
I haven’t gotten too far in yet, but the book has already caused me to ponder much. And it’s sparked a great realization: That so-called “victims” of “people of the lie” are often not really victims at all, but kind of “mini versions” of the psychopaths/sociopaths/narcissists who have taken advantage of them.
I have seen this “mini me” in myself.
The perpetrator takes advantage of some of the same character defects in others that he or she has. The main defect I see is that of wanting to see ourselves as “good,” and having others see us this way too.
The perpetrator builds our ego, and we see ourselves as “flowering” into our “best” selves. It may even appear as a spiritual breakthrough, as it did for me. But what is really “flowering” is our corrupted EGO–as our true selves shrink!
The author Peck said in his book that people who are evil attack others rather than face their own failures. While I have certainly seen this to be true, I have also seen that I have done the same thing, and you have likely done the same.
How often has someone pointed out something true about you, and instead of pausing to see if it is true, you have instead attacked the person? It is a reflexive defense mechanism of our egos, and it seems to come in a flash: a mix of fear, pride, and anger. Fear that our ego feels threatened (it is!), pride because “how dare they attack ME!”, and anger–the cement that makes the whole recipe work!
I have noticed this reflexive response in others first and judged them for it, but the more I saw it, the more I could see that I do the same thing! It is kind of weird when one discovers… “I have met the enemy, and he is ME!”
Sins of the fathers… and mothers
I have recently seen that I have operated under a certain “illusion of goodness” much of my life. I have wanted others to see me in a good light–a light that shows me better than I actually am. I remember resenting my mother for being a certain way in the home, but showing a different side to the neighbors. And therefore that spirit of hypocrisy got into me.
But I remember my father being distant. I did not feel a connection of love from him, and I can see a certain emotional distance in my own parenting.
And no, I don’t believe my parents were bad people. They certainly gave all that they could to try to raise us kids the best way they could manage. But alas, we all are operating with a faulty set of tools, as each generation has been passed an incomplete toolbox.
Peck also said, “Most evil people realize the evil deep within themselves but are unable to tolerate the pain of introspection or admit to themselves that they are evil…” Yes, I have seen this quality in “people of the lie,” yet I have also seen it in myself and others who I classify as “enablers of ‘people of the lie.'”
I know that I have long used food as a cover for really looking at myself–the “salvation” coming from the feeling I get from satisfying myself through the pleasure of eating has been preferable to the real salvation of truth. Others use food, sex, drugs, the misuse of relationships, etc. for the same purpose. Everybody who is unwilling to truly see what they have become has a “drug” of choice.
Peck continues, “…thus, they constantly run away from their evil by putting themselves in a position of moral superiority and putting the focus of evil on OTHERS.” Again–this is certainly true in “people of the lie,” but it is also true in the “mini me’s” too.
As for me, I have not yet surrendered to the Truth, I know that. And yet, I can see it slowly breaking me down. A certain amount has gotten inside me, and it feels like an irreversible process. Yet I know that the Devil is “hell”-bent on taking EVERY human soul, so believe me, I am not taking anything for granted, and I know that he has “double-downed” on me of late.
I am being tested in the fire–and trust me, so far I don’t look like gold! In truth, we are ALL being tested in the fire. It seems that in this day, the process has greatly accelerated. But it is all for our good, if we are but willing to accept that we have become “people of the lie”–to one degree or another.
I believe that if we can accept that, then God–through His grace–can mold us into “people of the TRUTH.”
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