“It’s no big deal, Irv! Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” We’ve all heard those expressions. It’s the attempt to make something smaller than it really is. The issue may be huge even life-altering but to the one minimizing it is "no big deal.”
Psychologists call this defense mechanism minimization. Drawing from the term “to minimize,” the Cambridge English Online Dictionary defines minimization as “the act of making something seem less important or smaller than it really is.” When I was the director of the National Coalition For Purity I heard many men struggling with sexual sin in their lives use minimization as their crutch on which to lean. By minimizing their sin they tried to convince themselves that it was under control and they could quit any time they chose. Not true! They kept coming back to their sin like “a dog to the vomit" (Proverbs 26:11).
Why? Why do we minimize sin? From my experience in dealing with over 7,000 men and women in the purity ministry, here are some thoughts:
1. It is easier to minimize sin than to admit it, repent of it, and resolve it. When I was a 20-something, my Grandfather and I often rode together to work. We both worked at a plastics factory in the western suburbs of Chicago. As we passed a certain section of the road, the highway department had posted a sign that read “Bump Ahead.” That sign always irritated my Grandpa. “Why don’t they just fix it!” he would say. The answer? It’s easier to put up a sign than to do the hard work of repairing the road. So it is with those who minimize sin. It is easier to tell themselves and others that it isn’t a big deal rather than address the sin.
2. Minimization provides the illusion of control. By telling ourselves that it isn’t a big deal we think we’re in control of our sin, we can quit anytime we want to. Really? That’s seldom the case. The truth is it may be in control of us! We may not be the master – IT may be! Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Minimizing lets us think we’re in charge; we have this under control.
3. Minimization protects our pride. We don’t have to admit we have a problem. We don’t have to acknowledge the monster that sin has become in our lives. All of this protects our pride and makes us feel that we don’t need God or anybody else’s help. We can fix this all on our own. Not so. By minimizing we find ourselves fighting God who wants us to humble ourselves and ask for His help and the help of others. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
4. Finally, minimization is a tactic often used by the military when reporting to the public on the progress of a war. By reporting that the enemy is less formidable than he truly is and that he is on the run, the public confidence is raised that the war is being won. It is nothing less than deception. That was the case with the Army of the Confederacy (the South) during the Civil War. By minimizing their losses to the Army of the Potomac (the North), the South gave the message to those back home that they were winning the war when in fact they were losing it. By deceiving us into minimizing our sin Satan wins. The truth is we are losing the war big time when we minimize.
There are none so blind as those who will not see,