If you’ve spent any time around children you’ve heard this line. It starts with a broken lamp, a crayon-inspired work of art on the bedroom wall or a knock on the door from the neighbor who has come to report someone ran through her flowers and trampled every one of her precious tulips. The “event” is usually followed by that look from mom that strikes fear in any and all children within it’s range and almost simultaneously the arms go up, the fingers point and the first terrified little voice shouts the accusation, “he did it!” followed by “nuh uhn! he did it.” What is it that is in us from a very young age that causes us to want to place blame elsewhere?
There is no doubt that we are all born with an unwillingness, or at very least, a reluctance to take responsibility when we are at fault. Even in the garden of Eden Eve blamed the serpant and Adam blamed Eve. For most of us our knee jerk reaction when faced with accusation is to point the finger at someone or something that made us choose to do wrong. Who hasn’t uttered the words “the devil made me do it”? Recent news stories filled with finger pointing, transferring the blame and complete unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their actions has me thinking – why are we so unwilling to humbly say “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”?
Due to ridiculously large sums of money awarded in court cases and a culture that glorifies and sensationalizes bad behavior, we live in a time when even those caught red-handed claim innocence by some reason or another or they label themselves a victim of a grand scheme by others to bring them down. We celebrate those who continue to break the law and offend and disrespect everyone on the planet yet never utter the words “I’m sorry.” (think Linsay Lohan, Kanye West, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, need I go on?) No matter how obvious it is where the blame lies, everyone seems to make choices with no thought toward consequences because they’ve learned to defer responsibility onto someone or something else. Most mornings I hear a news story on TV that begins with “Who’s to blame for _______?” (fill in the blank….high gas prices, growing unemployment rates, high levels of obesity in America, increases in government spending, etc.). I think one of the most unbelievable examples I’ve seen recently is a group of college students who sued their college because they couldn’t find a job upon graduation. Nine graduates of a New York law school filed a $225 million dollar lawsuit on the basis that the school they attended should have anticipated the current recession. No seriously, they did. Fortunately a judge dismissed the case stating that “although we all sympathize with those who are having difficulty finding work, their anger and angst are misdirected.” Other lawyers unsympathetic to the new graduates said “The people who are applying to law schools are highly educated, they know how to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.” And the fear of litigation has caused many doctors, hospitals, school systems and companies to put in place preposterous policies to protect themselves. Extreme insurance costs have driven many small companies out of business and as consumers we pay the price through sky high insurance rates resulting from frivolous lawsuits. But all of that doesn’t seem to stop the mentality of “deny all, admit nothing and blame somebody else” which is prevalent in today’s society.
So again, why such an unwillingness to admit fault? I think the answer is really not as difficult as it may at first seem. We are sinners, sinners who are filled with pride. Pride is one of the most common things the devil uses to entice us into sin because pride is the opposite of the humility that, when present in our lives, points others to Jesus. Pride wants to take credit for favorable outcomes and place blame on others for the unfavorable ones. Pride blinds us to the reality of our situation by obscuring the truth. It causes us to overestimate our own righteousness and self worth which prevents us from repenting. Pride causes us to rationalize and justify our own wrong behavior. Pride masks our selfish attitudes which causes us to come to the conclusion “I don’t deserve punishment because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Pride has kept many from accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior because to admit our sins and acknowledge that in our own strength we can do nothing to receive eternal life requires humility and a reliance on someone other than ourselves. In his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said, “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves.” We are all guilty of the sin of pride yet our pride keeps us from wanting to admit it.
I’ve thought too as to why the blame game bothers me so much beyond the obvious frustration we all experience when we see people pointing fingers when they have absolutely no basis for doing so. One reason is that I’m guilty of it and even though I repent I still sometimes find myself falling into the trap of blaming others instead of taking responsibility myself. But the reason that stirs a righteous anger within me is that there was never a more appropriate and justified moment in the history of our world for someone to point the finger and to say “they did it” as when God sent Jesus to die for our sins. He had every right to say “But I didn’t do anything wrong, why do I have to take the punishment?” Instead he chose to receive the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He took the blame for every wrong that we’ve ever done. He endured the beating and excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross when it should have been us. He took our place when He said “I am he” as the guards approached him while searching for the one they had already presumed guilty. He willingly gave His life for ours so that we don’t have to die an eternal death as penalty for our sins. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect one. My prayer for myself is that the next time I’m tempted to join in the blame game I will remember the humility of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He selflessly took the blame on my behalf and I will say, with a humble spirit, “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”.