“Now what state do you live in?” “Denial.” – Bill Watterson
In a video I watched recently, a lady shared her life story on how her divorce had taught her some invaluable life lessons. One of the lessons she mentioned, and which struck a chord with me, was that she accepted she too had responsibility for her failed marriage. This caused her to reflect on her individual contribution while taking responsibility for her actions, without focusing solely on her spouse’s role.
You may check out her story here; Tania Ngima: Lessons from my Divorce.
Let me ask this, how much time do we spend in assessing the various wrong situations in our lives while truly admitting to ourselves that we have, or have had, a role to play in those situations? Just how easy is it for us to put blame on every other person or thing except ourselves?
Look at the very beginning of creation. Here they were, Adam and Eve, tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This despite God warning them against it. When they were confronted by the Creator, Adam placed the blame on Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.
The above story makes for a lovely read, but the reality we go through usually is not so pleasant. And it’s happening to many of us. Look at me, like many, I have had my share of pain in life. I have been betrayed and hurt, as I have felt, even by those who are dear to me.
I have seen how things have spanned out negatively in my marriage. My focus had been on how I’ve been hurt many times than on the issues at hand. The result? I have ended up blaming my husband a great deal during such circumstances. And, to be honest, I have usually ignored my part in those ordeals.
It’s not just my husband. My children too. I have seen this play out in the raising of our young ones. Sometimes, when it comes to their wrong behaviors, I have not accepted my role. There’s been, at times, a lack of or reluctance to disciplining and correcting them. The easy road has been to place blame elsewhere.
You see, it’s so easy to place blame on anyone or on anything apart from yourself; your spouse, your employer, children, environment, government, upbringing, circumstances, the church, your place of origin, negative relationships in your life, other hardships, you name it.
For instance, in my country (Kenya), corruption scandals and/or failures by different levels of government to implement strategies, progressive policies or investments, have become a norm, making various headlines in the media. These actions have had serious ramifications on our ailing economy, on the populace and on investor confidence.
It’s been easy to blame our politicians or those in government positions for the above. And yet, the truth is, we have had a role to play in this dismal picture, through our electoral votes.
For all the incessant complaints we make year in year out about our politicians, their antics and their effects, we still vote for tribesmen, idiotic as they may be. And for donkey years, we do nothing much to have a different outcome. It is no wonder then we are where we are, in an unenviable place that is, as a country. When you or I vote for an idiot, I think it says more about us and less about the idiot.
It’s not that we won’t make mistakes in the choice of our actions or responses to others, for human nature dictates we will. However, taking responsibility for our thoughts, behaviors, actions, responses, or acknowledging the lack of, makes us become better each day and helps us do what is right.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, in her blog You Are Responsible For Your Actions, says, “…You may have had ungodly parents; you may have an unloving mate, or in-law, or foolish children, or an impossible boss or co-worker. I’m not suggesting those things don’t affect you or that you should live in denial. But I am saying that by God’s grace you can respond in love and humility to the people and circumstances He brings into your life.”
How then can the Word of God be instrumental in our lives in such circumstances? Consider this:
- You will be held accountable for your actions, not what someone else did to you. “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:10, 12
- Confess your part. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
- Seek forgiveness from those you have offended. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
- If you have a workplace situation, ask yourself, ‘who are you working for’? “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
- Have divine thoughts and avoid negative ones. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Here’s the thing, avoiding passing the buck or engaging in blame helps us become positive in life, when we focus on our roles and actions. We stop seeing ourselves as victims or getting bothered little by little till it’s too much to take. We avoid bitterness and living exhausting and resentful lives.
There’s also a demonstration of maturity when we tell ourselves the truth. It defines who we are, what our character is. And it can also help us help others. This doesn’t mean excusing the other person’s bad behavior. No. We should always take the necessary action to bring the issue to the attention of the other party.
Nevertheless, acknowledging and accepting our role in any scenario is of paramount importance. Like my friend Liz usually says; be responsible for your own actions and responses to others.
For when you blame others, you give up your power to change. How you respond to circumstances in your life is ultimately your responsibility.
“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.” Eckhart Tolle