When I shift into defense, I’m defending denial. –Byron Katie
Today I attended a MENSA luncheon meeting because I enjoy just getting out and having an intellectually stimulating conversation once in a while. Unfortunately, someone felt the need to mention the issue of changing the name of the Washington Redskins football team. The man trotted out all the arguments about the word not really being meant as a racial slur, and so forth. But when I looked at this quote again, I realized it was true: The man was defending the name “Redskins,” but more importantly, what he was really defending was denial that the name is a racial slur, denial that the name really offends anybody, and denial that the feelings of Native Americans are important enough to change the team’s name and logo.
I started to think of some other instances where people feel the need to defend their stance, to see if the quote holds true in each case. Here’s what I came up with:
For example, when Christians feel they need to defend their religion, most generally what they are in denial about is the idea that there are other religions (and understandings of God) that are just as valid as Christianity.
When public school educators defend the pubic schools, they are in denial about the fact that there are a lot of things that need to change about the way schools are run, about what kids are taught and how they are taught it, about the way schools, students and teachers are held accountable, about the way teachers are prepared for their jobs and about how they are hired or dismissed.
When social conservatives defend anti-gay policies, they are generally in denial about the fact that gay people don’t hurt anybody, don’t take money out of anybody’s pocket, and they don’t procreate.
When social liberals defend social welfare programs, they are in denial about the fact that they do cost a lot of money, and they are not always set up in a way that is efficient, fair, and humane.
When gun owners defend the free and unrestricted ownership of guns in this country, they are in denial about the fact that guns are used to commit crimes and murders, and that although it’s true that “people kill people,” it’s also true that people kill more people with guns than with, say, knives. They’re also in denial about the fact that with guns people can kill more than one other person very rapidly. You can’t do that kind of damage with a knife.
People who defend American cars against foreign-made models are usually in denial about the fact that foreign cars are sometimes better products than domestic vehicles.
In my own writers’ club, we meet each month to critique two or three people’s work, and we tell the presenters that they have to be quiet while the critique is in progress. The reason is that if the writer is allowed to talk, the first thing that usually comes out of his or her mouth is a defense of the written work. And it is always a denial that the criticism being made has any merit.
In the future, I’m going to look more carefully at my own reactions to things. If I feel the need to defend something, I will ask myself, “What am I in denial about?” Hopefully this will be a good exercise for me.
What about you? What are you defending? What are you in denial about? 🙂