It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
Basil Fawlty (of the classic BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers) decides to apologise to a long-suffering guest about some stupid misunderstanding. He bounds up the hotel stairs, frantically repeating over and over to himself by way of contrite rehearsal, “I’m so sorry, I made a mistake! I’m so sorry, I made a mistake!” Almost breathless, he knocks on the bewildered guest’s door, and it opens gingerly. “I’m so sorry,” booms Fawlty, “…err, my…wife has made a mistake!” Basil just couldn’t bring himself to admit liability—although I don’t think he’d have dared blame his wife had she actually been present!
What Part Do We Play In Our Own Lives?
I’m sure you know people like that. It’s never their fault, is it? It’s their parents’ or children’s or bunny rabbit’s fault. It’s their star sign or the cat next door or you!—You made me do that! If everything is someone else’s fault, then what part do I play in my own life? Are my actions entirely without consequence? Am I that powerless? Or do all my actions only lead to good outcomes? I think they are important questions to think about and this business of blaming other people.
Life seems so much easier being a victim: it’s always someone else’s fault, and it’s always someone else’s responsibility to fix it. Being a victim, we can blame others in the past in order to avoid responsibility in the present: If only they hadn’t done that to me, I’d be able to… The catch with ‘playing victim’ is that we then need someone else to play the parent and do the fixing for us. And if everyone’s busily playing victim, then nothing is ever going to get fixed. Rather strange don’t you think?
Are We Only Responsible For What Goes Right?
We live in a society where responsibility is only acceptable for what goes right. A man decided to try a stunt that required him to swallow razor blades. He ended up at the hospital for emergency care and a huge bill. He took responsibility, right? Guess again. He ended up suing the hospital for subjecting him to harmful radiation during X-rays.
It is easy to try to shift the blame to others for our problems. The first-century Jews were guilty of this tendency. Those who do have a habit of blaming others for every little problem forget what the Apostle Paul said in Romans: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans &:18 – NIV)
Paul does not try to find a scapegoat for his problems by blaming somebody else. In fact, he does not even attempt to escape moral responsibility for his own disobedience.
(To be continued in The Blame Games – Part 2)