I listen to the occasional rap song when asked to by my youngest son. The lyrics in Lost by N.F. reached out and grabbed ahold of my spirit recently. Here’s just the beginning:
Self-awareness, pride’s a coat and yes, I like to wear it
Buttoned up, don’t like to let no air in
With a pair of gloves, that I hope doesn’t perish
I discovered, though, when I get holes in ’em and I let joy in, I’m in higher spirits
My mistakes are like a screamin’ parrot
Just repeatin’ lyrics, I can barely bear it when I’m lost
Road is narrow, I’m lookin’ down it like a gun’s barrel
Aren’t we all searchin’ for the serum that could help us breathe and leave our state of peril?
All of us have made defensive scarecrows, that we scatter ’round our fields and treat like heroes
When they scare away the things that we should cherish
‘Cause we’re too embarrassed to admit that fear is that we’re lost
The idea of pride being a coat we wear buttoned up and tight and that of the repeating lyrics of my mistakes are certainly ones I can personally relate to. Same with the notion of defensive scarecrows scaring away what I should cherish and me being too afraid to admit that I feel lost because of it.
Scarecrows are decoys invented by the Egyptians 3,000 years ago to protect wheat fields along the Nile from quail. The Greeks, Romans, and Japanese all had their own version of scarecrows.
Scarecrows only worked temporarily until the birds got used to them. When the birds were gone, bugs and worms destroyed crops because the birds weren’t there to eat them. Today, scarecrows are just cute, fall decorations with no real purpose, and perhaps this is because they didn’t always work, at least not long term, and when they did work, the absence of birds led to other problems.
Defensiveness is a coping strategy where we attack another person or deflect in some way to shift focus away from our own faults and insecurities. We get defensive because we’re afraid, and we don’t know how to feel better. In other words, defensiveness is an action in response to feelings we don’t know how to deal with.
Defensive is a reaction to fear and insecurity and gives the illusion of confidence and self-worth. We create defensive scarecrows when we feel sad, hurt, ashamed, angry, etc. and don’t deal with those feelings. Here’s a list of what defensive scarecrows sometimes look like:
- Pushing people away with vague answers
- Not taking responsibility for attitude, actions, and words (i.e., always having an excuse)
- Not appearing to be listening (e.g., hiding behind our phones)
- Blaming others for our circumstances or simply blaming our circumstances
- Justifying behavior (i.e., admitting anything except choosing to behave that way)
- Telling others what their intentions are even though we can’t know someone else’s intentions
- Talking about what another did wrong unrelated to the current issue (i.e., distraction)
- Giving the silent treatment
- Being sarcastic
The long-term result of defensiveness is lack of unity and fellowship, which goes against what God wants.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8)
Defensive scarecrows, like real scarecrows, don’t always work, at least not long term (i.e., the root cause is still there). When they do work, they lead to other problems. (i.e., relationship struggles or worse).
Therapy can help create awareness of defensive scarecrows, but it can also lead to labeling and justifying. A good therapist will lead you to the root cause and help you overcome your defensive scarecrows.
The only way I’ve established lasting change – the only way I’ve found victory over my defensive scarecrows – is by letting the Holy Spirit and God’s living word work in my heart and mind. Here’s how the Bible says this can happen.
Victory Over Defensive Scarecrows
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Victory over defensive scarecrows begins with awareness. And, since our hearts are often deceitful, we need to ask God for wisdom. We must admit our struggle and trust him to lead us to transformation.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18)
Once we’re aware of our defensive scarecrows, we must then take responsibility for our attitudes, actions, and words. This means refusing to deny the truth the Holy Spirit has made us aware of and instead admitting that our defensiveness stems from selfish ambition. We must admit that our defensiveness is because of our sin. Acknowledging our defensiveness in this way leads to combatting it through the wisdom of heaven (i.e., the qualities in James 3:17-18).
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:4-10)
Defensiveness results from pride, which is sin. We must deal with our sin to get rid of the defensive scarecrows keeping us from fellowship with God and with others. This means we must submit ourselves to God and resist the devil – humbleness is key.
Deep sorrow for past sin (i.e., repentance) opens us up to transformation. We must seek God, knowing he will be found. Let him renew you and lead you to transformation.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossian 3:13)
After repentance, we must forgive the wrongdoing that may have created defensive scarecrows. In other words, forgive others for what they did to you that led to you creating defensive scarecrows. Then, forgive yourself for letting defensiveness and pride reign in you; that is, forgive yourself for what you’ve done because of your defensiveness.
Then, ask God for forgiveness, and believe you are forgiven because God’s word says you are, Let this truth change you. Now, live in the forgiveness promised when we confess sin and are forgiven.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Let yourself be transformed. Stop resisting the Holy Spirit. Remember that trials of all kinds make your faith stronger and increase your perseverance. Perfection is impossible for us in this life, so the goal this side of heaven is progress over perfection.
Let these points be a regular routine for defeating pride and your defensive scarecrows. Watch your relationships be transformed as you overcome destructive patterns and poor habits.