One of the benefits (albeit the benefit of a two-edged sword) of being a Catholic is the sacrament of reconciliation, and one of the benefits of reconciliation is the requirement that if you are serious about your faith, you must be serious about your examination of your conscience. It's a process that can be emotionally painful, as well as fraught with the peril I wrote about over a year ago, when discussing Julian Barnes' "The Sense of an Ending": self-deception.
I put the book down with a mixture of melancholy and satisfaction. "Melancholy" not in the sense of gloom, but of sober thoughtfulness, recognizing that I, too, am a flawed human being who has lived for decades as an adult who has spun his own personal stories to explain (and justify) myself and others, and that those stories are just as likely filled with erroneous judgments about my own acts and omissions, my motivations for those acts and omissions, and their effect on others (and on me), as was true for Barnes' character Tony. "Satisfaction" in the sense that Barnes' story, as often is the case when a novel works as "art," communicated truths to me about myself and the larger human condition on levels more profound and emotionally resonant than a work of nonfiction could achieve.
It's easier to observe the traps of self-deception in others than in yourself, of course.
According to a number of psychologists, one of the most common defense mechanisms employed by most people is "projection," "attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives to another." One source cites as an example "a con-artist might be under the impression that everyone else is trying to con him or her." That rings true to me, and I see it in some of my own actions, in both the professional and personal realms. Although I don't think I employ that device frequently or indiscrminately, I can see how it might influence my views of another. If I am subconcsiciously concerned about my own sincerity toward another, I might easily project a belief upon the other that they are insincere, when they may not be at all. I get it.
Of course, that leads me back to one of my previous points: it's hard to self-analyze, because of the dangers of self-deception. One man's projection is another man's insight. It's essential, however, to be aware of these dangers, and, therefore, to proceed with more caution than that which comes naturally to me.
Another observation that I think might be sound, and that I have honored more in the breach than the observance, is that personal and professional relationships require both parties to firmly desire to engage in open, sometimes painful, dialogue with an open mind and heart. I'm a guy who's spent a lifetime pulling plugs and throwing the "off" switch at the first provocation. If the other party to the relationship is also naturally inclined to such behavior, then the personal or professional relationship is doomed. Professional partners who respect one another, and personal "partners" who love one another, pull plugs as a last, not first, resort. Love and respect (sometimes) hurt. If you're not willing to work at it, then your relationship was merely one of convenience, and when it stopped being convenient, there was no basis on which to continue.
I hope the foregoing is the result of genuine insight, and not self-deception. Time will tell, I hope.