I recently read this quote from a blog describing the behaviors of a liar: “Liars will often … suggest punishments for the ‘real culprit’ if they’re being accused of something …”
Blame is deeply embedded in the human experience. We blame others when we are threatened, don’t get our own way, or feel fear, powerless, angry, or ashamed. That impulse is captured in Creation stories (ex. the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden). We all do this individually and communally. I blame my wife when I feel lonely, and countries (including the U.S.) blame other cultures when we feel unsafe. I blame my past when I am hurting, and we blame our neighbor when our peace is disturbed.
Given that this is an innate tendency and that we “lie” about ourselves to ourselves, what is the alternative? It takes great courage, and a belief in something other than our own self-protective desires, to accept that I am part of the problem and that my perspective will naturally contain “lies”. Maturity and satisfying life will always begin by confessing my drive to blame others and turning my attention to myself to ask where I have failed. Where am I falling far short of kindness, generosity, love, and peace? Where are my self-protective ways causing damage? Thus begins the difficult and beautiful journey of maturity.
I am reminded of Jesus’ instruction: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5 – NRSV).
We will not be able to see the real offense of others until we have taken a slow, deliberate, and honest inventory of ourselves. There we can find true confession, insight, freedom, and new possibilities for loving our neighbor.