To blame, is to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong. There are times when I can assign blame instead of seeking to understand or focusing on taking responsibility for my own actions. The only variable I can change is myself. Blaming also spills over into setting and enforcing my own boundaries.
When I was a child most things that were going wrong were my fault, or so I thought. My mother leaving was a result of my behavior. My father’s drinking was due to my inability to be what he needed me to be to stay sober. When something was happening around me the adults in my life always had someone else to blame. It was never their fault. I learned early on to place blame with others when I felt shame, fear, or anger. Feeling uncomfortable emotions meant someone else was at fault – causing it. If I was the cause it meant I was difficult to love or ultimately unlovable.
Pv17:14 (ESV) “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
Being the victim, or self-focused meant I didn’t take ownership for my bad behavior and choices. There is a powerlessness to this I could never quite grasp. For many years I was unaware of how deep my blaming went, how often I deferred to it, even in the simplest of situations, and how it was connected to fear and my lack of self-worth. Now, on my new journey, I am learning to own my bad behavior completely, to own shame and blame in healthy ways, to look past myself to seek to understand the other.
Pv3:25-26 (ESV) “Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.”
I was recently in a minor fender bender that both I and the other party were able to not only walk, but also drive away from. I was incredibly grateful for this. I was at fault, yet, after the accident my default mechanism was to defend myself. I didn’t do this externally, but internally and later with others I found myself questioning everything. I reasoned why this could have not been my fault, after all I had a green light, I didn’t see her, maybe she was speeding, she technically hit me, and on it went. In my reasoning, I omitted she had right of way. When I finally stopped to sort through my emotions I realized what I was feeling was shame and embarrassment. I lost touch with a very healthy sober fear and awareness while driving. I was also embarrassed since earlier that same day I was making jokes about my driving and some of the foolish things I had done, or gotten away with in the past behind the wheel, without any repercussion to others or myself.
Pv11:2 (NIV) “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
Blaming other people or circumstances is easier than doing the soul-searching work, dealing with the uncomfortable emotions, and accepting my responsibility. It takes courage and assurance in who I am in God to accept my part, big or small, to ask, “Why am I reacting so strongly to this?” It takes assurance in His great love for me to own my darkness, to be in touch with my sin on a very granular and brutally honest level to brake me from self-focused pride. It also takes this love and assurance to know when I am not to blame but when to enforce healthy boundaries to enable me to own my behavior.
Ps 62:5-7 (AMP) “My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. 6 He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved.7 With God rests my salvation and my glory; He is my Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness, and my refuge is in God!”
We all sin, fall short, every day, yet how many of us do an inventory of our particular sins? I am learning to do just that. This is not to wallow in self-pity or guilt, or beat myself up, it’s a healthy awareness that allows me to take ownership of and change my behavior. In many ways it has been incredibly empowering. When I am truly aware of the extent of my sinful nature it produces authentic remorse. When I am in touch and in the battle with my own sin, I am a lot slower to assume and quicker to extend mercy to others for their sins and shortcomings. I am also better at setting healthy boundaries and looking at my behavior and not someone else to enforce them.
When I look to my own behavior to enforce my boundaries instead of looking to someone else’s, it prevents me from becoming bitter, blaming God or others for choices I make. So for example, if I feel uncomfortable doing something someone asks of me and I do it anyway, I can either become embittered that they “made” me do it, or I can own that I chose to do what I did not want to and was not authentic and honest with myself or the other person. When my identity and assurance is in God I am empowered to be my most authentic self, to search my motives and know my heart as He knows it. I can apologize for my wrongdoing and own my part knowing that I am still loved and accepted, unconditionally.
Ps139: 23 (ESV) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”
Blame does not give us power, ownership does. There were things in my childhood that were not my fault. These poor examples lead to my poor behavior in adulthood but Jesus freed me from this long ago. He assures me and gives me the strength and courage to own my boundaries and my responsibilities. I am powerless over others, but God is powerful. Accepting my powerlessness frees me to embrace God’s love, mercy and grace, which empowers me to accept who I am and my shortcomings, it allows me to then, in turn, accept others and their shortcomings as well.
Job 35:6-8 (NLT) 6 If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on him? 7 If you are good, is this some great gift to him? What could you possibly give him? 8 No, your sins affect only people like yourself, and your good deeds also affect only humans.”
Ps 51: 10-13 (NCV) “Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again. 11 Do not send me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me. 12 Give me back the joy of your salvation. Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach your ways to those who do wrong, and sinners will turn back to you.”
I have not mastered this. I still fall into the blame game, but now, I have the awareness and tools to end the game sooner; to stop and ask, “Why am I feeling or reacting so strongly?”; and to apologize and own my part quicker. He is the game changer.