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When Being Duped Turns Out to Be a Good Thing

23 Jan Monti Te'O - Notre Dame

In last week’s most bizarre news story, we found out that Notre Dame All-Everything linebacker, Manti Te’o, was duped into falling for a girl who never existed. Turns out, it was all part of an elaborate scheme known as ‘catfishing,’ aimed at using a false identity to reel an unsuspecting victim into some form of an online relationship. Most people feel Manti should have known better. This is probably true. There had to be a lot of red flags popping up. Perhaps Manti ignored them. Maybe he was too embarrassed to acknowledge the inconsistencies in a story of great perseverance that had become bigger than himself.
Manti Te'o - Being Duped
All of us have probably been duped at some point in our lives. Most likely, it did not play out in such a dramatic fashion in front of the national media. But it does happen in smaller ways to most of us. We’ve been deceived when we believe the story of a coworker who hides behind a made up excuse for not delivering results on time. It happens to my wife, Becca, and I every week when we volunteer at the Higher Ground homeless shelter in Minneapolis. We’re told numerous stories–some more believable than others–about the lives, tragedies, triumphs, and needs of the men coming in and out of the shelter.

Should we care that we’re being tricked or misled? Of course, no one wants to walk around being naive about everything. But how much and how often does our desire to avoid being duped get in the way of our ability to give freely, to be charitable, and ultimately to love our neighbor as ourselves?

A classic example of this avoidance behavior occurs when we pull up to a stoplight and a man with a sign reading — “Recently homeless. Need money for food. God bless,” — looks at us for some help. Most of us do whatever we can to distract ourselves and avoid eye contact. As we accelerate through the intersection, we think to ourselves, “All the better that I didn’t hand him a few bucks. He may have spent it on booze. I would have been an enabler.”

We’re afraid of being duped.

But why? Isn’t this our ego at play? Our need for being “right” and in control of the final outcome? In other words, our fear of being duped prevents us from being truly charitable and loving. Acts of true charity and love should leave one caring very little about the end result of the action. A mother chooses to tend to her child out of true love, even if the child might be using its mother’s love to get what it wants.

Certainly, there are times we need to be wary of being scammed. However, the more we guard against it in everyday situations, the less we open ourselves up to being truly charitable. We have to learn to let our guard down and trust more. Jesus says we must “become like children” to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18: 1-4). This doesn’t mean walking around letting ourselves be tricked. It does mean, however, that our first instinct should be one of trust and love, rather than one of guarded cynicism about another’s intentions.

So here’s to being duped more than a few times this year, all in the name of being more open, more trusting and loving more freely, no matter the end result.

-Kevin Bailey