Reducing your dissonance


    Imagine that you bought a brand new car that was advertised with a lot of hype — gleaming, sleek exterior. Plush interiors. The latest luxury features. So you’re proudly driving this baby around, flashing it far and wide, because, well, driving around in such a sleek, pricey car raises your social status by leaps and bounds! You know the drill.

    Then one day, something goes wrong with the engine. You make a panic run to the casa, and they fix it fast… so you set your fears aside, and decide to overlook it.

    You don’t even tell your friends about this glitch because, well, it’s so embarrassing to admit that you might’ve bought a dud. A lemon. After you paraded this flashy car in front of them, and even had pictures taken with it.

    A few weeks pass by. One day, you open the car door and the handle falls off, the power window gets stuck. Then part of the upholstery cracks… horrors. Faux leather pala.

    Finally, the bombshell drops. A car guru makes an exposé on all the defects of this car you bought — that it’s a huge fake. The biggest advertising hoax of the decade.

    You’re shell-shocked because you bought one. You were fooled. You fell for it — hook, line, and sinker.

    That’s when the consumer (you) unconsciously switches to what’s called a dissonance-reducing mode. You try to reduce the anguish of being fooled. Hoodwinked. Scammed.

    So you look for ways to “defend” your car. You gloss over its defects. You blow up its features that are “still working.” You focus on its “redeeming features.” You’re actually defending yourself, not the car.

    Then you refuse to compare it with the much better cars that your friends (wisely) bought.

    In fact, you get into debates with them and even criticize their cars. You get upset with them for telling you to just ditch the lemon you bought while you still can.

    It may take some time before you finally admit to yourself and to your friends that — “Shucks. I got fooled big time. I invested a lot in a dud. I’m so frustrated. I feel so cheated.

    I’m so angry at myself for being so gullible.” Or stupid.

    I think the same thing pretty much happens when someone we trust turns out to be such a big fake.

    Maybe someone warned you already about this person but you didn’t listen.

    Maybe you noticed some telltale, suspicious things — but were just too awed, too mesmerized, so you set aside those unsettling things.

    Maybe you invested a lot in this person, and now you feel so cheated, betrayed, taken for a fool.

    When you kind of wake up from your shell shock, be careful that what you call “forgiveness” is not, in truth, just a dissonance-reducing thing that you’re using to minimize the damage, to give yourself a false sense of peace. Some people even cloak it in Christianese.

    Genuine forgiveness means you face the ugly truth about the person you trusted — but you still decide to forgive him/her, fully cognizant of the depth and extent of the betrayal. No minimizing. No sweeping under the rug. No glib excuses. No blame-shifting.

    We must remind ourselves: Forgiving because we want to obey God is the best reason there is.

    Don’t resent others for calling out what the person did. Even if it’s a litany of sins that makes you squirm, or keeps you up at night. Don’t judge people who call a spade a spade.

    Don’t resent them for daring to ask the hard questions. They’re probably more in touch with reality than you are.

    Don’t say they’re “unforgiving” just because they choose to be objective, factual, dispassionate.

    Be careful that you don’t become defensive. Or worse, that you defend the indefensible just because you want to assuage your pain or embarrassment.

    Be careful that you don’t beat up on yourself for getting fooled. Just try your best not to fall into that sinkhole again.

    Pay attention to the red flags.

    Yes. It’s humiliating to get fooled. We’ve all been there.

    But it’s more humiliating to NOT admit that one was fooled. Or to make it look like one didn’t really make such a bad, bad choice.

    That’s fooling yourself all over again.