We’ve all experienced the pain that comes from being blamed for something. Probably because I make more mistakes than most, I get blamed more than most. But for the most part, I deserve it – because, well, I actually am to blame. As a pastor it is a part of my ministry to those in my care to minister healing to their souls which have been wounded with invisible pain. Most of the time these wounded souls wear an impression mask to hide their true pain from others. But in those precious moments of trust, they will take their masks down and let you see into their wounded hearts. But in all my years of pastoral therapy and support for wounded souls, rarely is there a pain that hurts so many so much as unreasonable blame.
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
Perhaps the single most disturbing and shocking example of this was when a young lady came and saw me from another church. She told of how, from the age of 5 or so, she had been molested and raped each week by an elder in the church in her family home. The Youth Minister reported her accusation to the Senior Pastor. Neither of them believed her because they considered the elder to be of impeccable character. What followed from her call for help still boggles and outrages me to this day. The Senior Pastor called her and the elder to his church office. He told the girl that she was a liar and needed to apologise to the elder standing in the Pastor’s office with her. The Senior pastor then left his office and closed the door so that she could apologise to the elder! Her allegations were later found to be true, but not before she had had to go into years of psychiatric care. She experienced some of the worst unreasonable blame I have ever dealt with and her unbelievable pain was both understandable and outrageous at the same time due to its grossly unjust nature.
Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
and seek the life of the upright.
We live in a world were abusers unreasonably blame their victims. A woman is raped and the rapist blames the woman for being out at night, or wearing what he considered to be a revealing dress. A patient dies and their family blames their doctor for it because he was on his annual leave at the time. Parents lose one of their children while on a camping trip only to find them days later when Search And Rescue discovered their body at the bottom of a cliff. The parents then blame their other child for not keeping a close enough eye on their sibling. A natural disaster hits a community and dozens of people lose their homes and the electorate blames their political leaders. Unreasonable blame hurts like nothing else and this world is rife with it.
UNJUST BLAMING IS DUE TO OUR SIN NATURE
Unreasonable and unjust blaming began immediately when sin entered into the human race.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ¶ And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Commonly, those who most liberally dispense unreasonable blame and the ones who are battling the most with unresolved guilt. Watch out for the constantly critical person! Chances are they are masking their own guilt and failure by constantly unreasonably blaming others for being inadequate failures. When God held Adam to account, the guilty progenitor of the human race immediately dished out unreasonable and unjustified blame onto his wife. Eve, refusing take this blame, redirected this blame onto the serpent, and the serpent of course didn’t have a leg to stand on.
ACCEPTING APPROPRIATE BLAME IS ESSENTIAL TO ACCOUNTABILITY
I hate failing. I hate being wrong. But what I hate even more is being blamed when I am. But it is deserved blame. Unless I can accept blame when it is deserved, I cannot be held accountable. If I cannot be held accountable, I cannot become who God wants me to be. Correction from wrong doing or wrong being can only occur when I admit, confess, and repent. As difficult as it is, it requires the core and essential Christian trait – humility – to do so.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
First Peter 5:5
THE KIND-HEARTED ARE SOFT TARGETS FOR UNREASONABLE BLAME
Why do our own family often say the most hurtful things to us? Usually it’s because fellow family members are the softest targets for another member’s frustrations. A ‘soft’ target is a non-moving target and therefore easiest to hit. It doesn’t retaliate. Given the choice between venting our frustration toward someone who has strong, clear unmistakeable boundaries who will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour, and a soft target (someone close to us who unconditionally loves us despite our bad behaviour), we are all more included to take aim at the soft target.
The challenge then for the kind-hearted, soft target, is to establish clear boundaries with those who seek to expel unreasonable blame on them. The bigger challenge is to get these kind-hearted souls to realise that when they take their stand and refuse to accept this unreasonable blame that they are still being kind-hearted. Clear boundaries often test and reveal the true levels of respect within a relationship.
Hurt people hurt people.
Guilt-ridden people are highly-critical people.
When parents continually and unreasonably blame one of their children for the plight of their other child, they may actually be admitting to feeling that they have failed to parent their children well enough. In an instance like this, the child who blames their parents or their sibling for their plight is the instigator of this unreasonable blame and is in reality admitting their own failure to take and accept responsibility for their own lives, choices and actions. For as long as they do this, they will remain emotionally, socially, and intellectually stunted. Whenever a family member who is serving as the family’s “soft target” remains reluctant to establish clear boundaries (which nearly always result in a temporary breakdown of their fellowship with their blamers) they perpetuate their own pain, and further the stunting of their fellow family members maturing.
Of course this kind of pain doesn’t just occur within families. It occurs within organisations, churches, work-places, schools, and neighbourhoods. But the principles of remedy are the same. There comes a point when you have establish your boundaries which resemble: I’m prepared to accept blame for those things for which I am truly responsible – but, I cannot, will not, and should not be unreasonably blamed for something that the person primarily responsible for is not prepared to accept responsibility for! In rare occasions this boundary-setting leaves the relationship unhindered. Perhaps this is why it is so difficult for the kind-hearted to set such boundaries.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
A CLOSING WORD TO UNREASONABLE BLAMERS
In my experience, those who unreasonably blame others who cannot reasonably be held responsible, are hurting people. It is human nature to look for someone to blame. Blame can be constructive. I have already mentioned that it is an essential component of accountability. But unreasonable blame is unwarranted blame. It is unfair. It is hurtful.
It would be my pastoral hope that those who have engaged in unreasonable blaming will find this brief article to be something of a mirror which might help them to recognise the angst they have been causing others. In this hope is the aspiration that just perhaps, the beauty of humility (leading to repentance and seeking forgiveness) will be so attractive that it will then expose the ugliness of toxic and unhelpful judgmentalism.
May God give you, the unreasonably blamed, the grace to stand within appropriate boundaries. And may God give you, the unreasonably blaming, the grace to walk in humility and seek the forgiveness He offers and of those you have caused unjust pain too. And finally, for those of you who have been emotionally, relationally, and socially stunted, by your reluctance to take responsibility for your own choices, actions, and outcomes, may God heal your hearts, fill you with His peace, overwhelm you with contentment, transform your critical heart into an intercessor’s heart, and turn your mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).