Genesis 3:12-13 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Our society’s lack of responsibility for action is nothing new. From the beginning, humans have cast blame on to other things in order to avoid responsibility. Adam and Eve made a choice. After that choice, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. Why would they not own their responsibility?
I think they were avoiding shame. Feeling shame stirs up a powerful emotional response. When I am in a shameful frame of mind, I will do, say, and act in strange ways to avoid the pain of shame. Personally, I will use anger, defensiveness, and blame to avoid shame or shameful messages.
How do we know that Adam and Eve were avoiding shame? Look back at the end of Genesis 2 (2:25) and notice how they felt. They were naked and felt no shame. Once they ate of the fruit, their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. They were feeling shame. Did they feel shame because they were naked? I think not. Their heart was exposed. They had disobeyed and now were feeling remorse and shame. They had realized that what they had done was against what God had set out and they began to believe that they may have disappointed God.
So, let’s fast forward to today. I watch and experience boys, girls, men, women, and I use blame and excuse to avoid the painful messages of shame. When I miss the mark on something, my first inclination is to blame something else or give some sort of excuse (which is a form of casting blame). A common scenario I deal with as a school Principal is when a student is not doing well in a class. In this situation, it is not unusual for the student to make a comment like, “The teacher just doesn’t like me.” Or, “That teacher singled me out.” Or, “There is just a personality conflict.” Although at times that may be true, most of the time this is a sure sign of a student avoiding shame. He/she are not taking care of his/her requirements for the class, or he/she does not understand the material and feels ‘stupid’. Either of these may cause shame. Now I’m not saying that the student’s blame game is malicious. They are truly avoiding the shame; the pain is too much.
When I look at it this way, I have some compassion on the student. I get it…because I do it myself. The pain or the embarrassment of the shame is more than I am willing to go through. I do not want to face the work it will take to rid myself of that shame.
Now, dealing with others (students, my children, accountability partners), I can have a different approach to the ‘blame game’. I can ask a question like, “It’s easier to lay blame than to own what happened and feel stupid or that you have disappointed me isn’t it?” I can have grace for others in that situation. I also can have grace and compassion on myself. I can begin to recognize that I am avoiding the painful and condemning messages of shame in my life. This is not to say that I do not hold another or myself accountable for missing the mark. However, it does allow me a different approach and method.
1. Think of a recent situation where someone would cast blame instead of taking responsibility for an action. Now dig underneath, how is this about avoiding shame?
2. What shame do you cover with blame and excuse?
3. In what ways has this article opened up your thinking?
4. What is a step you can take toward having compassion on one who lays blame (including yourself)?
5. This week, ask God to show where you cover your shame. Ask Him to come into your heart and help to know the truth about the goodness He created in you.
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