Blame

“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.

The toxicity of “mansplaining”

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

Romans 12:14-17

I am a strong advocate for women in leadership. My mom was raised to be independent, and my wife and sister are both strong leaders. I hope that my daughter follows in their footsteps. At my church, from the very beginning, we’ve had women in leadership. And our Sunday morning speaking team has women on it who we regularly hear from. Additionally, we as a church helped to launch an anti-trafficking organization that helps young women who are survivors of human trafficking.

Because of my strong advocacy for women, and because I am a follower of Christ, I will teach my daughter to never use the term “mansplaining.” This is one of those toxic terms that has been created by our culture recently. This made-up word came about because of the regularity of men speaking down to women. So when a man over-explains something to a woman simply because she is a woman, he is “mansplaining.”

But there are serious problems with this judgmental term. It is essentially an attempt by a woman who feels like she is experiencing condescension from a man to be condescending back toward him. It is fighting condescension with a kind of mocking condescension in return. It is a sort of weaponizing of perceived victimhood. As a follower of Christ, can you see the problem here?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And the Bible is clear, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21). Being condescending to someone who is being condescending to you doesn’t solve the issue. It only makes it worse.

Another major problem with this term is that if a man is over-explaining something to my daughter, there is no way for her to know the reason he is doing it. There is no way for her to know his true motivations. Unless there is hard evidence, she can’t know if he is over-explaining things simply because she is a woman, or because of a number of other reasons.

But what other reasons could there be? Let me offer a few:

1. coaching/teaching: when a person over-explains something to someone who is learning something new

2. correcting: when a person over-explains something to someone who is in error and needs coarse-correcting 

3. personality: when a person over-explains things to everyone around them simply because that is their personality

4. condescension: when a person over-explains something because they believe the person they are talking to is an idiot 

5. mansplaining: when a man over-explains something specifically because he is speaking to a woman 

I want to talk to my daughter about the fact that both men and women over-explain things for a variety of reasons. There could be reasons for over-explaining that actually come from a good place in a person’s heart. They could be attempting to coach, teach, correct, or it could just be part of their personality.

Even if their motivation for over-explaining is poor, they could be doing it out of a sense of intellectual superiority and not because my daughter is a woman. I have seen plenty of women speak condescendingly out of a sense of superiority. This kind of arrogance is not gender specific.

If a man over-explains something to my daughter and she immediately thinks it is because she is a women, that would be her reacting out of an insecurity and not from a place of emotional health. And from that insecurity can come judgmentalism in all its ugly forms.

My daughter is really smart. People will over-explain many things to her–things she knows better than they do–for the rest of her life. I want her to expect it and not be offended by it. I want her to respond to it with grace and humility, not assuming the worst about the person doing it (whether it is a woman or a man).

This is why the term itself (mansplaining) is toxic and really shouldn’t be used by followers of Christ. It is a judgmental term that is full of mockery and spite and too often comes from a place of woundedness and not from a place of spiritual and emotional health.