Who is to Blame?

“If you make it a habit not to blame others, you will feel the growth of the ability to love in your soul, and you will see the growth of goodness in your life.”

Leo Tolstoy

The other day my little girl came crying to me, “Cameron yelled at me!” I went to Cameron to get the full story.  Turns out, after an independent fact-check from my oldest daughter, that she had stolen a pink monster truck out of his hand.  She declared, “It’s mine, it’s my favorite color!” Then, to prevent any such insolence in the future, she gave him a little push on the way out.  He, in response, yelled, “You are so meeeeannn!”

As parents we see similar situations play out multiple times a day.  What I have come to notice is that in all cases – the offended party sees themselves as completely guilt-less.  They seem incapable of seeing their part in the matter.  They don’t see their actions, only others’ reactions. I don’t think we ever fully outgrow this.  Our tendency to see ourselves as the innocent party makes it difficult to discern the truth of a situation.

The Parable of the Mote and Beam,
Ottmar Elliger the Younger, 1700

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Matthew 7:3

We are all victims of circumstance, of others’ poor choices, and of society. This is part of the struggle of life. We should speak up when others’ actions harm us. I certainly want to know when my children hurt each other.

However, as Tolstoy expresses, when we are stuck in blame – when we seek someone to accuse for every difficulty of life – we start to see our fellow man as opponents, rather than fellow-travelers in this difficult life.  So often in our finger-pointing we are blind to reality. We see malice where there was none.  We see willful action where there was simple misunderstanding.  Our blame makes matters worse. My son just picked up a lonely-looking truck, look how it ended for him.  

Thankfully we have more self-awareness than my 4-year-old. We can look to ourselves. So when we are seek some to blame, let’s first consider ourselves. We may find that rather than being burdened with the realization of our own folly, we will experience an increase in love for others and a corresponding strength to overcome our weakness.

“To recognize that we are to blame, is to say that we ought to be better, that we are able to do right if we will.  We are able to turn our faces to the light and come out of the darkness.”

George MacDonald

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