Genesis 4.9 NIV
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’
‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Cain was a murderer. In the fit of jealous rage “Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4.8).
But, was Cain a liar? At first glance it seems that he was. Surely Cain knew of his dead brother’s where- abouts. The LORD inquired, “Where is your brother?” Cain responded, “I don’t know.” Did he?
Our minds play amazing tricks on us. We see what we allow our minds to visualize. We know only what we can comprehend. Some realities are more intense than we choose to tolerate. We minimize, pretend, ignore, forget, anesthetize, rationalize, or medicate reality away. Our brains possess a remarkable capacity to invent new realities more palatable than the old ones. Invented realities work well for us. They allow us to function. Pure reality can emotionally cripple and render us helpless, or worse, force us to face the truth and become responsible. Denial is a much easier and more desirable path.
Did Cain know where his brother was? Maybe not. To allow himself such knowledge would have meant taking responsibility for his brother’s condition. The answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” depends entirely upon my choice of realities. If I invent my own reality, as did Cain, then I may honestly reply, “I don’t know”. If I make it my business not to know where my brother is, how then can I be required to become his “keeper”? This self-serving logic lays the groundwork for a life of denial.
Denial is an alluring and powerful form of self-deception.