“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5
We live in a culture that is obsessed with blame. Everyone seems to want to blame everyone else for their troubles. Each political party blames the other. Each race blames the other. Women blame men for all their issues. Men blame women for all of theirs. The church is to blame for my lack of faith. My parents are to blame for my messed up life. There is a lie embedded in our culture that goes like this, “Either I am to blame or you are.” Under the lie is this: “To accept blame would crush me. So in an act of self-protection I will blame everyone else for my life being this way.”
When we blame others, as if they are the problem, then we must do something to control them. If other people are in control of my well-being, if they are to blame, then I must perpetually make attempts to control other people in order to manage my life.
Our main tools of control are usually manipulation or force. I will have to try to use manipulation and deception to control others either through flattery or by playing the victim. If that doesn’t work, I’ll need to use force either through violence or harsh words. These are the natural results of blaming others for the outcome of our life.
Can you see how unhealthy this is?
At the root of the lie is the falsehood that we have to blame someone. It is a false dichotomy that I either have to blame others or blame myself. The truth is that we neither have to blame others nor ourselves. We do have to own our own sin, failures, and poor decisions. But that doesn’t mean we have to carry the crushing weight of blame.
What if we embraced this novel idea: no one is to “blame.” We live in a broken world full of broken systems and broken people. Life is hard. Life is complicated. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Blame is the wrong word. Responsibility is the right word. We need to take responsibility for our actions, our own feelings, and our own lives. Jesus was clear with His disciples. We must look at the plank in our own eyes before we try to take the speck out of other eyes.
Paul said something similar about taking personal responsibility to the Galatians:
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.Galatians 6:4-5
We can’t control other people, and our attempts to do so damage relationships. We can only control ourselves. We are only responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. We should communicate how the actions of others affect us. We should figure out what is happening in our own hearts and learn how to articulate that. But we need to stop trying to control people into compliance. And we begin to stop trying to control people when we stop blaming everyone around us for our situation.
When we start taking responsibility for our own life and stop blaming others, our relationships begin to flourish. We stop making other people responsible for our happiness, and we begin to realize that Jesus alone is our true source of life.