Is it my imagination or are people getting better and better at blaming others when things go wrong? Personally, I get it. When you are part of a team and something goes wrong, then it is likely that the team should shoulder some of the blame. Surely one person shouldn’t carry it all. But sometimes, when things go wrong, some of us end up not sharing any of the blame. In fact, what we do is immediately get defensive and look for others upon who we can lay all the blame. This is when you will hear people say, “Well it wasn’t my fault” or “I did my part.” This is what I am seeing. I know that there are times in my own life when I am hesitant to accept responsibility for things. But I am learning.
Many of us have heard the story of Adam and Eve. As the story is told, God created the heavens and the earth and then when that was all done, his final creation was humanity. He put Adam and Eve into this beautiful garden that he had created and gave them freedom to enjoy and the responsibility to care for and manage it all. He only had one condition – Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat the fruit of the tree “of the knowledge of good and evil.” Well, it didn’t last long before the serpent convinced Eve, who in turn convinced Adam to eat of that fruit. So both Adam and Eve ate the fruit. When they were done eating, shame came on them both and they hid. When God came around looking for them, they ended up having to admit that they ate of the fruit. But of course, in typical human fashion, Adam started right out by essentially blaming God and Eve for what he had done. Eve of course didn’t accept responsibility either, she blamed the serpent. In other words everyone was passing the buck.
The past few weeks, I have been learning about the importance of accepting responsibility for the things that we have control over. That when things go wrong, and we could have prevented it, that we need to stand up and accept responsibility for those things. Some time ago, I was speaking with someone about this issue of responsibility and blame and they shared with me an incredibly simple tool to help in this exercise. It is called a responsibility pie. Think of an apple pie. When you go to serve it, you cut it into pieces, and then pass it out. Normally when cutting a pie you try to make the slices all equal. But with the responsibility pie, nothing is ever really equal. So when something goes wrong, the challenge is to figure out how much of the pie (how much of the responsibility for things going wrong) belongs to you and how much belongs to others. So your percentage of responsibility might be 25%, and the other person might be 75%. Or maybe it is reverse. However if you change the situation by adding more people, you then have to make more slices of pie, It then becomes even harder to divide out the responsibility. There is one other thing about working with the responsibility pie, we need to make sure that we don’t over or under estimate our responsibility. For many there is a tendency to underestimate our responsibility for what has gone wrong. Many of us don’t want to accept any blame.
I am wondering how much better life would be for all of us, if we took a closer look at ourselves and asked ourselves what share of the pie belongs to us. Instead of blaming everyone else, we should make an effort to own our share of the problem. One source of growth is from admitting our mistakes and learning from them.
But there is another reason to own up to our share of the pie. Our relationship with God hinges on it. You see it is a very strange but true reality that Jesus has done something extraordinary. He is willing to take on our share of the blame, to assume responsibility for our mistakes if we will just own them ourselves first. It is His way of showing forgiveness. He will take on the responsibility and consequences of the sins that we have committed. But He will only take the blame if we first own it. His death on the cross was for you and me. In other words, if we confess, he will forgive us, and take it all on himself.
By Pastor Mark McCready, Alma Bible Church