Updated: Jun 5, 2020
THE BLINDNESS OF BLAME
by Penn Clark
There is a tendency in all of us to focus too much on what others have done wrong to us so that we no longer see what we have done wrong ourselves, or what we can now do to move forward. I call this the blindness of blame. It blinds us from seeing what God is doing or wants to do within us.
I read a quote about blame once that really got me thinking about it: "When you blame others, you give up your power to change" — often attributed to Dr. Robert Anthony
I have found this to be true in my life. Whenever I focus on what others have done, whether it was real or imagined, I limit my potential to grow. If we don’t grow from the negative things that happen to us, they are completely wasted.
Whenever we take our eyes off what others have done to us and focus on our response, or what God is wanting to do in us, then we will always find grace to change.
Here is a similar insight from life-coach Wayne Dyer: "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find in another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making the other feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."
(While I do not necessarily endorse or recommend either author, I have found these quotes helpful in making me rethink my own tendency to get stuck in the cycle of blame.)
Stop and think about it. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the devil, and even though what they said was partly true, it did not help them in any way. There is no evidence that either of them grew from what they went through. They did not seem to have any insight or were changed in any way. As time passed, they did not get in touch with what was going on within them, which caused them to sin in the first place. Nothing is ever said about their repenting or having any new spiritual relationship with God after that. There is no mention of either of them asking for forgiveness of God, or of each other (read Genesis 3:9–13).
As a pastor, I have met people who live in misery because of something that happened years ago. I try to help them move forward in their faith, but they can’t seem to get anywhere. They never grow past the point of the offense. They continually replay what happened, in well-rehearsed detail, placing the blame on others. They somehow feel justified for not going forward in their faith, for quitting church, or for leaving their marriage, because they were the victim. However, when they stand before the Lord, He will not focus on what others have done, but only on how they chose to respond: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done (2 Corinthians 5:10).
It seems like God’s eyes move from what others have done to what we will do. He is looking at our response to injustice and hurt. He wants to see if we will forgive, forebear, or confront. He is expecting us to use the cross, forgiving the offender and moving forward to other levels of His grace. This is what the cross enables us to do. When we justify our poor response by pointing to what others have done, perhaps He will say, “What was that between you and Me? Did I harm you in any way? Why did you quit on Me? Was there not enough grace for that? Did you go to the cross? Why did you not do what my Word said to do in order to overcome?”
When we are made blinded by blame, we tend to see the entire circumstance as it appears to us, from our limited vantage point, but there is always another side that we fail to consider.
We see the blindness of blame at work in King Saul’s life when he disobeyed specific instructions from the Lord given to him through the prophet Samuel. He was told to kill everything, but instead of doing this, he kept the sheep and allowed an evil king to live. When Samuel arrived, Saul greeted the prophet by saying, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
But Samuel said, “Then what is the sound of bleating in my ears, and the lowing of oxen which I hear?”(1 Samuel 15:13–14).
When Saul was confronted about this, he began to blame others. He basically said, “The people did it, and we saved the best to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord” (v. 15).
Samuel grew so angry with him that he told him to shut up (v. 16). Not only was Saul not telling the truth, but his response prevented him from seeing what he had done wrong. There is evidence that he never grew spiritually from this time forward.
Even though Saul quickly asked for forgiveness, it didn’t seem to come from the heart, at least not to the degree that it changed him or removed any of the consequences his sin had caused. (Read the entire account in 1 Samuel 15.)
This was a very different response and outcome from the one David experienced when he had sinned and was confronted by the prophet (see 2 Samuel 12).
I hear pastors blaming what others have done in their pasts for the current conditions of their churches, but their focus is misdirected. They will never get the breakthrough they long for by remaining focused on what others have done wrong. We cannot blame others for:
- Our lack of success. There are too many stories out there of people who succeeded in spite of all that had been done to them.
- Our personal unhappiness. Happiness is a choice that only we make.
- Our circumstances. God’s hand upon our lives always supersedes anything that comes our way.
Romans 8:28 tells us, “… we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
The truth of this promise is powerfully illustrated in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We can see it clearly illustrated in the life of Joseph. Try to find anywhere in Scripture where he blamed others for the series of injustices that happened to him.
Once we take our eyes off of what others have done, we can begin to see what we need to do to move forward. We can find the way out. We can become open to creative solutions that help us overcome. We can begin to gain perspective on what God is doing in our lives. We may even see where we contributed to the mess in the first place. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
If you have been focused on what others have done to you in the past, release them. Forgive them. Let it go. You may have to do this more than once, especially if it has been a longstanding offense or if you need to break off the habit of living in blame. Spend more time at the cross, both giving and receiving Christ’s love and forgiveness. It may take time, but your eyes will begin to open, and you will see things differently.
Taken from my book "Stopping the Mouths of Lions" published in 2016 by Wordsmith Publishing, Penn Yan, NY