Vol.XX No.III Pg.3
May 1983

The Great Delusion

Dan S. Shipley

In the night of His betrayal, Jesus tells His disciples, "All ye shall be offended in me this night." (Matt. 26:31). But Peter thought otherwise and said so. "If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended" (v.33). Peter was saying, in effect, what so many others have said down through the years: "It won't happen to me:" — but it did.

"It won't happen to me" is a pernicious but popular form of self-deception that blinds us to truth, facts, and reality. This was brought home to me recently when a friend of a friend of mine was hospitalized as a result of a serious motorcycle accident. One of his visitors remarked that she would like for her son to come up and see first-hand what happens to people who ride those "awful machines". The answer coming from the hospital bed was not what she expected. "It won't do any good for your son to see me like this", he replied. "They all think it won't happen to them." Having two grown sons and another "going on grown," I can appreciate his reply. Citing accident reports, death and injury statistics, personal testimonies, and the like to teenagers with "motorcycle fever" is like talking to deaf people — because, like the man said, they think it won't happen to them. However, would-be motorcycle jockeys are not the only ones who suffer from such delusions.

Consider, for instance, the multitudes of grown, intelligent people (including some anti-motorcyclists) who choose to ignore the frequent and competent warnings linking smoking to cancer and heart disease. They know the risks, they know that tobacco will contribute to nearly 130,000 cancer deaths this year, yet somehow conclude, "It won't happen to me." Shortly before dying with lung cancer a dear friend once told me, "We always think it just happens to the other fellow, don't we? — too late we learn better." But the cherished delusion doesn't stop here.

Think of the mountain of evidence drinkers choose to ignore. Over 55% of all highway deaths are alcohol-related; over 6 1/2 million Americans have become alcoholics and 3 million teenagers are headed in the same direction. Alcohol contributes to broken homes, neglected children, lost jobs, and countless other problems yet the drinker, even when sober, comes to the irrational and preposterous conclusion that "It won't happen to me."

Foolish? Consider the fact that one out of six unmarried women will become pregnant this year. Some of them will be Christians, taught from youth to "flee fornication" and to keep themselves pure. Think, too, of young Christians who choose to marry and spend the rest of their lives with a non-Christian. They have heard of the dangers, the weakening influences in such a relationship, yet they continue to think what they want to believe, "It won't happen to me."

Finally, consider the host of unfaithful who have become spiritual dropouts through the years. Most never thought they would; they didn't plan to. Perhaps, they too, lived with the Great Delusion of Peter. Do you?