You know how blame works. "The woman you gave to me, God," said Adam. "The snake you put in the garden," said Eve. Both of them blaming something outside themselves that has as its source, God.
God has always been easy to blame, especially if our image of God is the popular, imaginary one of a God who loves us so much that nothing bad could ever be allowed to happen. With this kind of guarantee in place, if something does go wrong, of course it must be God's fault.
Okay, so a lot of people see through that ridiculous image of God. But we still play the blame game. A lot of us do it because we love playing the victim. Martyrdom is so admirable, after all. It elevates our status a bit. And with today's culture encouraging us to behave in destructive ways demanding medical or political remedies to our bad behavior, victim-ology has been raised to an art form.
As sick as this is, there is one kind of person that may be the sickest of all when it comes to the blame game. It is the person who blames himself or herself for everything. This is my confession. And I am learning to come out of it. But here is what I do and why I do it.
When anything goes wrong, I take the blame. I am sure I am not the only one to blame. In fact, I may well know (or think I know) exactly who is the person bearing most of the responsibility, but I take it on myself, very publicly for two reasons. One, I don't have to get into a messy conversation about responsibility and risk discovering that I am actually wrong and truly am the one to blame. Two, It allows me to take the moral high ground and come off as kind of noble and heroic. "I will take the blame. My shoulders are broad and strong and you may place the blame on me, absolving yourselves. Yes, I am quite noble even if my actions caused this problem. But I do not want you to suffer and feel guilty, so you may place the blame in my foolish yet awesomely gracious arms, for they are strong enough to carry this burden."
How messed up is that? What an ego!
Quick aside. I am not posting this to show anyone how enlightened I am. I'm 53 years old. I should have learned this a long time ago. I fully expect the average psychologically healthy person would read this and think, "Dude, who ever said you could be a pastor?" I am only offering this because I am so glad I am on the road to recovery, and also to serve as a kind of yellow flag for others who may be as I tend to want to be.
The truth is, relationships are hard. Sometimes I am to blame. Sometimes I am not. But my relationships will only go so deep if I am not willing to have hard conversations with the people I love and with whom I work.
But the saddest thing about self-blaming is that if I accept all blame in order to deflect legitimate criticism that may reveal I actually am to blame, It allows me to do something that just erodes my soul. It allows me to avoid finding out who is to blame. And if it is me, I never really have to confront it. I never have to rethink, change, apologize, show actual grace, learn or grow. Blaming myself protects me from all of that. But the cost is that my soul will slowly, inexorably, shrivel up and die.
May you be set free from the blame game. May you refuse to play the victim, either of the actions of others, or those of yourself. May you come to know the value of tough conversations and the giving and receiving of grace. And may you live as Jesus lived, who emptied himself, lived with an irrational joy, refused to be a victim, and spoke gracious truth to those who welcomed it, as well as to those who did not.