We're often tempted to blame others. How do you recover from a poor decision?
So many times in our life we are tempted to make a bad decision and then try to make the situation better by making up some sort of excuse. This has been going on for ages. People in Biblical times did the same thing. They would sometimes even put the blame on God. They would say that they thought God had told them to do it, so it was okay. That's how the story of Abraham and his son reads in the Bible. Abraham thought that God told him to sacrifice Isaac. So Abraham took his son up onto a mountain and was about to kill him when God's angel asked him what he was doing and stopped the sacrifice.1
A friend once told me that whenever we point our finger at someone else, there are always three fingers pointing back at us. So, whenever we try to blame someone else for our wrongdoings, we need to think again. We could be in the wrong more than we think we are.
Also, when we do something wrong, we sometimes say, "I'm only human." This is often a cop-out. You don't notice people saying that when they get an A on a math test or save someone from a burning building. Such a statement shows the desire to place blame or to shirk responsibility: we weren't able to make the right decision for ourselves in the first place, so we blame our mess-up on being "human." While I know that we are fallible, I also know that if we listen more closely to God, we will hear God guiding us, helping us make the right choices every step of the way.
The parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible has taught me a lot about blame and decision-making. The father gives his two sons money. The older son stays at home and uses wisdom, while the younger son parties and wastes it all. This son realizes he has messed up and decides to go home. As the father sees his young son coming down the street, he runs to meet him, hugs him, kisses his feet, and gives him love. The son owned up to his mistake. He didn't try to blame his father for his own bad decision-making. The father didn't blame the son for wasting all of his inheritance. Even though the son didn't make the right decision in the first place, the father made the right decision by forgiving his son.2
Decision-making is a very hard aspect of life, but we'll be a lot better off if we stop making excuses and face decision-making with courage and honesty! Finding excuses and placing blame just get in the way. Once we realize that we are the "keepers" of our own lives, that we're responsible for our own decisions (not someone else), we'll be able to learn from our mistakes and rejoice in our good decisions. Of course, the best decision-maker is God. So, the more we listen to God, the better off we'll be and the better off the world will be.
1The Bible does say that God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a "test" (Gen 22). But let's join the writer's line of reasoning. The people around Abraham worshipped idols and were comfortable with sacrificing people. Abraham grew up in that environment. His father was an idol maker. So, perhaps Abraham thought God was talking to him when really he could have just been confused by popular thought, by other cultural voices. We know that it can be very difficult sometimes to distinguish between God's thoughts and "other's" thoughts. Abraham could have been dealing with the same thing. Since God is a loving God, it makes much more sense that God was never in the voice Abraham heard telling him to sacrifice his son. Rather, God's voice was in the angel message to stop human sacrifice.
2In the absence of blame, the son's genuine repentance and the father's genuine love enabled a true transformation of the son and a much better relationship between the son and the father. So, if we're ever in a situation where we're tempted to place blame, we can remember this story. Blame keeps us stuck in the problem. But repenting and loving move us forward. It's fun to think of the father as God. God is always loving us. God never blames us. We are always God's children. But if we want a wonderful relationship with God, we have to come home to our Father, God.