The Blame Game

She was an old woman by my standards during the days of my youth, but as I look back now, I see my grandma as not much older than I am today. But to a ten-year-old, age can be so disproportionate. She taught me a lot that summer—how to bake pie and play pinochle. And the most fun for me? When she would get out her box of pictures from bygone years and tell me the stories behind each one. I think my grandma might have been my first story-telling mentor without realizing it.

Of course, the best stories hold emotion or carry an emotional impact and some of Grandma’s surely did. Sometimes that emotion was laughter and fun—like when she dressed up in costume or climbed a tree or went swimming in those funny bathing suits from the 1920s.

On the other hand, there was a thread of bitterness that ran through her life and came out in her words. In one story, she blamed her mom for making her give up her only doll. In another the women in her circle made her feel guilty until she took in a foster child. There were complaints about caring for her mother-in-law, and the twinge of frustration the year she had to plan a funeral for a drunken brother-in-law on Christmas Eve.

But the one that hit me hardest was the bitterness she carried against my dad. To her credit, she stopped complaining about him the moment I refused to listen. He was my hero, and it wasn’t until much later in life that I understood that Grandma just lashed out because of hurt and loss of control. She had learned early to keep a tight reign on her circumstances or she might lose or give way to emotion. Something stoic Baptists did not do.

Grandma probably didn’t realize that bitterness is emotion, and she was teaching me how to hold grudges, how to hold hurts over past stories instead of releasing them to God.

Oh God, when will you show us how to let things go? How do we get over this endless guilt? How do we stop using guilt and blame to control other people? Will You ever restore what's been broken?

Sometimes memories of past hurts mingle with the current pain of now. We can't get past the gray to see the sun.

And so we blame whatever person or circumstance we think got us into this mess.

The blame game is as old as time, as vivid as the story of Adam and Eve and a slimy snake. Blame slithers into our hearts when we refuse to look at ourselves or admit the wrongs we have done. My grandma didn't realize that she didn't have to live her life out of guilt. And she didn't recognize her tendency to take control when it wasn't her place to do so. Whatever fears led to her actions, it took time for her to understand that she could trust God to handle what she couldn't.

She was a woman of many talents, and I loved her dearly. And to her credit, she made things right with my dad before she went to be with Jesus. She gave up the blaming and the bitterness.

I'm slowly learning to do the same.

Blaming others comes so easily to us. Blaming God comes even easier because we know He has the power to make things right, and when we don't get our way in our time, we can become like pouty children and take it out on Him. Adam did it, ancient Israel did it, organizations of every stripe do it, and individually so do we.

When we finally see the truth of who we are and who God is, we can stop looking at the people who let us down. It isn't the people who are to blame for our lives. It's not our past or our parents or our heritage or where we were born or anything else. Blame says, "It's not my fault." Blame builds walls between relationships.

Truth says, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I confess. I admit it. Please forgive me."

That's when the blame game stops and the path to an abundant life begins.