The other day my wife Shirley and I were riding down the road and without notice or awareness of what was happening, we were in a cycle of blame.
I said to her something like, “By the way, why didn’t you take care of that job at church I asked you to do? I called someone the other day and they said it hadn’t been done yet.”
She said something back to me like, “I didn’t do it because you said you were going to call him first and tell me what he said. And you never got back to me. I didn’t get it done because I was waiting on you.”
“Yeah but you can’t wait forever on me” I said. “If I hadn’t talked to you about it, you should have called me to remind me. That issue needed to be taken care of long before this.”
Shirley shot back, “Why do you always blame me when you forget things? Part of the reason I don’t do some of the things you ask me to do is because it’s never good enough for you. It’s probably a subconscious forgetfulness so I won’t be corrected when I do finish the job.”
I said, “Really? So you are blaming me for not doing what I asked you to do, and what you said you would do, because my standards are too high? Why don’t you just accept responsibility for dropping the ball and then we can decide how we are going to get it done?”
“Fine,” She said. “I’ll take blame for not doing something you asked me to do if you will admit that I am perfectly justified for not doing it. Then I can preserve my own sanity.”
We went on like that for a few more minutes before I realized that we were sounding a lot like Adam and Eve on that first day of sin. God asked Adam (my paraphrase), “Have you eaten from the tree?” When He did Adam answered, “Yeah, but the woman You made for me gave it to me.” Then God turned to the woman and she said, “Don’t look at me. The devil made me do it” (Genesis 3:12-13).
Right here we have the sum total of blame in the world. People blame other people. They blame the devil. And they blame God. And this thing called blame is at the root of a good number of the ills in our world today. Divorce is at unprecedented levels because of blame. Blame is what populates our prisons. There would be no court system without blame. Blame divides people, relationships, families, organizations, churches, countries and governments. It divides the world. There would be no wars if it weren’t for blame. There would be no Al-Qaeda, no ISIS, no Holocaust, no genocide, no prejudice, no class systems, and very little crime without blame.
Blame is inherent in the human system. The reality is we all fail so we all are to blame. And we are good at blaming others. In fact, we would just as soon blame anyone but ourselves. Thus we see that the real problem with blame is the uncanny tendency in each of us to deflect responsibility away from ourselves. This tendency has as its source desperate efforts to protect our fragile emotional conditions.
We think, “What will happen if I am wrong? I will lose. Or he will win. Or I will forfeit the upper hand. Or she will have the goods on me.”
Humility, on the other hand, accepts blame. The greatest problem with blame is the absence of introspection it represents. When I am blaming someone else for a situation, I am not looking within.
Adam and Eve both blamed someone else. But the truth was — that sin deep within their hearts was the source. Yes, there was a tempter; and there will always be a tempter. The source to giving in to temptation is within us, not the tempter. James 1:14 says, “We aren’t really tempted until we are drawn away by our own lust and enticed” (my paraphrase). That is why Adam and Eve couldn’t; nor can we blame anyone else when we fail. We can only blame ourselves.
Are other people to blame sometimes? Of course! However, the biggest problem in life isn’t the blame that falls on others. It is the blame that we, ourselves, refuse to own. At very least when others fail, if we could be reminded of our own faltering tendencies; perhaps we would be less likely to draw attention to the failures of others. And, if we could all learn to say, “Hey everybody, it’s my bad” a little more often, I think we would all be a lot healthier emotionally and we may avert a few more troubles in our world.
And speaking of troubles, how about divorce for starters?