With a number of years as a parish pastor and also in secular worker-priest employment, the scenario below has unfolded before my eyes a number of times. Self-delusion is a really sneaky choice. Being absolutely honest, although thankfully not with infidelity, I, too, have employed such a tactic myself, i.e. self-delusion. How about you?
Every pastor has to deal with the person who comes to him and tries to excuse himself when he is committing a very serious sin and violating his marriage. Why did I use the masculine pronoun? Well, despite the changes in society and the growth of feminism, it is still my experience that the male is the one more likely to look outside the marriage bond. Yes, there are women who cheat, lie, and make false accusations. There is a case currently going on in which a woman falsely accused four college students of unspeakable crimes yet turned out to be lying. Nevertheless, the most common case a pastor encounters is the case of a husband trying to find excuses for why he was unfaithful in his marriage.
Like the comic pictured above, it is incredible how often a husband has a “life-changing” realization at the same time that his marriage is in trouble. And, when such a realization comes, it becomes extremely difficult for a pastor to talk to that husband to try to convince them that what they are experiencing is unreliable. You see, in almost all First World countries we have come to think of our emotions as one of the more reliable indicators of “truth.” Martin Luther talked about how we should not force people to go against their conscience. However, what Dr. Luther did not foresee was that conscience would decay into mere feelings by the 20th century. The reality is that most people will not do the theoretical work necessary to compare their impulses over against Scripture and logical thinking. And, so, the Reformers and the Radical Reformers were speaking from their arguments derived from their view of Scripture. But, too many people today, including supposedly good Orthodox people, equate their conscience with their emotions. And, this is a major problem, because conscience is not equivalent to whatever feelings you may be having at the moment. You see, conscience is supposed to be informed by the Holy Spirit but all too often it is not.