How to Escape Blame, Guilt and Feeling Bad
She was a hospital charge nurse with a problem. Her control of her staff wasn’t that great, but worse, she suffered from a critical attitude and an overwhelming need to attach blame to everything that happened. Her staff was terrified of her tantrums and would cringe whenever they heard her familiar catch-cry, “Who’s responsible for this?!?!” It never crossed her mind that the blame might be all hers.
Why is it when things go wrong that we automatically assume it’s our fault? It might be and if so we know what to do – admit it, face the music and put it right. But what happens when we don’t know what we did wrong? We quickly feel guilty and defensive. That might sound like doing two opposite things at once but they are linked by the common ground of blame. We feel like the blame belongs to us (it doesn’t have to be our fault but our struggle with guilt tells us that we did something wrong and so we have something to defend.) We feel the need to justify ourselves as the only way to preserve our tattered self-esteem. We feel guilty (whether we need to or not) at the same time as we feel an irrational need to defend ourselves from blame! It’s a simple loop we learn early in life and reinforce with endless repetitions.
Our reaction wreaks havoc on our relationships, killing open communication and ambushing our friends and family with our over the top reactions. Others are puzzled by our reactions since it never occurred to them that we were to blame for anything. We thought they were thinking about us when in reality nothing was further from their minds. Our ego-centrism has cheated us yet again. We think about ourselves all the time but others don’t give us that much attention. They’re busy thinking about themselves instead.
What we lack is a good perspective. When we see ourselves as little, incapable peons who are inevitably making a mess of life we are playing with a self-fulfilling prophecy – we make our own history. Our view is not accurate and so it cannot be fixed. It leaves us depressed and frustrated. We have no “handles” to inspire change, nothing real to work on.
To make progress on our growth and personal development we need specifics. That’s one of the dangers of the theological view that everyone is depraved and rotten. On a certain level it is true, we do not measure up to the divine standard and never will. God knows we will fall short of his standard (and he has already taken steps to help us.) The problem comes when we take this view of failure to extremes and see ourselves as the ultimate losers.
God never does that to us, we do. God works in hope and hope thrives on the transformation of reality. We come to God as broken and confused people who are in need of a work-over. We come as ones who don’t deserve a break. He doesn’t seem to notice or pay attention to the problems, he’s just glad we came. Instead of the rejection, judgment and criticism we expect, we find acceptance.
It’s possible to find Christians who give us these things (rejection, judgment and criticism) but they aren’t sharing inspiration from God – their actions reveal they haven’t understood even the basics of God’s acceptance; their ongoing struggles with guilt and low-self esteem rob them of transformation in their own lives and leave them without impact on others. They are not credible as people and the message they bring is not remotely desirable to others. Their decidedly “not-so-good-news gospel” is out of line with the facts and misrepresents God.
It’s not about blame! Blame’s a dead-end street. It’s not about guilt, it’s about salvation, acceptance and restoration; it’s about finding ourselves and learning to live with and for God. That’s the way of faith. Like the wandering son we come to God without demands and expectations, guilty of failure as charged, unsure of ourselves, willing to face the judgment we deserve for our stupidity. To our surprise we discover genuine acceptance, elation and forgiveness as he ushers us in to new provision we don’t deserve. The lingering feelings of guilt we experience are all ours and they won’t go away until we learn to forgive ourselves and accept that we have been totally forgiven.
Jesus says to us all, “Come to me everyone who is burdened and carrying a heavy load that’s much too big for you and I will give you a break. Trade what you’ve got for what I give to you and learn about life my way. You’ll discover that I am gentle and humble and that doing things my way will stop your endless struggles. Pulling the load I give you is easy and will not drain your energy.”
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Posted on January 31, 2012, in Active faith, Self-awareness and tagged Blame, Christian, critical attitude, criticism and condemnation, Emergency department, false guilt, forgiving ourselves, guilt, Jesus, Matthew 11, self-esteem. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.