Compromising decision making to support conclusions that are not necessarily warranted, a form of dishonesty

Rationalization can be described as self-deception by reasoning. Karen Horney

When you rationalize, you do just that: You make rational lies. Unknown

Rationalization is an instinctive process that attempts to justify our bad decisions before we make them. Randall Burkhalter


  Sometimes our desire to make certain decisions is not supported by sound reasoning. Rationalization is manipulating certain facts and details to make things come out in such a way that supports making the decision we wanted to make in the first place. Many bad decisions are made because we rationalize them. Some of us are so good at this we have taken it to the level of an art form. In truth it is a form of self-deception and lying.

    Some have achieved expert status at rationalizing virtually anything. They can develop a line of reasons, excuses and justification for supporting anything they wish to do. It is very creative. In order to live with ourselves, we have to rationalize bad decisions. Engaging in immoral or unethical behavior, borderline or gray areas, or actions that go against our upbringing, causes us considerable inner turmoil. To minimize this disharmony we must find ways to excuse, justify or sanction what we have done or are about to do. Many adulterous affairs are the result of this time tested process. Buying new cars, expensive vacations, and other debts are often the end result of this process. Government actions and policies often use rationalization for justifying legislation or other actions. Many bad deeds and decisions were rationalized. Rationalization is used to support taking no action as well. It is closely related to procrastination. We can be rather creative in finding reasons to postpone or doing nothing when action is needed or warranted.

   Rationalization would better be called “irrationalization”. It is our number one excuse making mechanism. As we seek to become the best we can be. It is critical to recognize rationalization as counterproductive to our growth and development. It is dishonesty and lying; first to ourselves, and often to others as well. Some feel bad or even guilty after they rationalize; others are so accustomed to it; there is no sense of remorse at all.

   The cure is accountability; our values, principles and standards must govern us. If something is intrinsically wrong, it is wrong. No amount of mental gymnastics or irrational conclusions turns wrong into right. If our gut or conscience sends bad vibes, we are on shaky ground or on a slippery slope. We must seize control of these moments and do what we know to be right. There is tremendous personal growth that results from the process of making these tough decisions.


Challenge: Rationalization is irrational and is not sound reasoning. Learn to become better at catching yourself “irrationalizing”. Think of yourself with a butterfly net and looking for butterflies. Use the net to snare yourself when you start using rationalization to make bad decisions. Once you become aware of what you are doing you will be able to hold fast and resist the temptation. Start making better decisions. Hold yourself accountable.


Wisdom: Your ability to rationalize your own bad deeds makes you believe that the whole world is as amoral as you are. Douglas Coupland

Spiritual: (NIV)

Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Leviticus 19:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5, 6

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

The more we trust in the Lord to guide and advise us, the better decisions we will make. We will have the strength and the courage to be honest with ourselves. Using rationalization, lying to ourselves and other tactics we have used to do what we wanted to do whether it was right or wrong, will have less and less appeal to us. God gives us the strength to increasingly see the truth and helps us to strand for the truth.


Prayer:  Grant me wisdom and understanding as I journey through this day and the days to come. 

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