When a person is rationalizing a situation to convince themselves that it is really okay to do something wrong, they are telling themselves “rational lies”. Okay, it’s an old joke. But “rational lies” tells the story in one phrase.
A theological description of rationalization can be found in Jeremiah 17:9, which says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (NIV) Our human ability to deceive ourselves is beyond comprehension. As I talk with people or observed things going on in our culture, I step back and simply observe how people think. In those situations I can frequently see self-deception at work. Sometimes it is so painfully obvious. The destructive power is incredible.
I think of what C.S. Lewis said in his forward to The Screwtape Letters. When asked where he found the diabolically twisted thinking that appears in the book, he said he needed to look no further than his own heart. Self-deception is the same way. It is very unsettling on those rare occasions when I see self-deception working in my own mind. If you work at it, you might even find places where self-deception has been working in you.
Oh yes, the human heart is deceitful above all things. That remarkable ability we have to deceive ourselves is beyond understanding.
When it comes to the fraud triangle, I think that Christians are especially capable of recognizing and comprehending the risk because of the assistance provided by Scripture.