Recently my niece, a high school senior, had a very disappointing experience. She auditioned and qualified for the All-State Choir and was excited about traveling and competing in the competition. Then there was a glitch. The school failed to turn in the paperwork and payment before the deadline. Now six qualifying students, including my niece, will not be able to participate. Appeals from the school to the music association board were denied. You can guess what happened next. Disappointment, tears, anger and . . . news coverage. A series of statements followed from the school administration, music association and parents. Unfortunately, most of the school’s comments just deflected or shifted the blame.
My niece is the only senior, so despite four years of hard work and achievement, this opportunity is forever lost. Nevertheless, I am convinced that in the long run the Lord will use this experience to continue shaping her character for good (Romans 8:28). What concerns me most, and triggers warning lights about our culture, was the unwillingness of the school to accept responsibility for the mistake. Rather than humbly acknowledging the fault (i.e. we failed to file the paperwork on time), their focus was on the injustice of the music association for not making an exception.
I am not judging the error, but the response. I have dropped the ball countless times, but I pray that God will give me the courage and humility to admit when I’ve messed up. Words like, “It was my fault and I am so sorry for the trouble and disappointment I’ve caused you.”
Blame shifting is not a new phenomenon. As preachers often say, it all goes back to the Garden. When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the one forbidden fruit, they recognized their nakedness and felt ashamed. What did they do next? They HID. Isn’t that our first instinct when we realize that we have failed in our responsibilities at work or at home? I want to crawl under the proverbial rock. My shame drives me to try to cover up my mistake . . . or blame someone else.
God arrived for his usual walk with Adam and Eve but they were nowhere to be found. “Where are you?” (He knew exactly what had happened). “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” Wait for it . . . Adam blamed Eve and God: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.” When God confronted Eve she blamed the devil. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3: 1-13) See how naturally we come by this trait?
I’m sure the music teacher, busy with the spring musical, and the office worker, buried in a pile of paperwork, did not intentionally hurt the six music students depending on them. I’m guessing the administrators were worried about another posse of parents banging on their door . . . or worse, drawing more negative attention to their school. But how will we teach our young people to accept their imperfections? To take responsibility for mistakes? To make restitution when it’s possible?
We may not be able to change an individual, much less reverse the cultural tide, but by learning to admit our own mistakes and be accountable for them we will make a difference in our workplace and our home. Accountability isn’t always the marketplace way, but to glorify God, let’s buck that trend. Are you wondering how this praises God? Through the work of Christ Jesus on our behalf, we have been released from guilt and shame. We are able to say, “I was wrong” because every wrongdoing has already been covered by Him.
Go forth, (and please turn in your paperwork).
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, I confess that I’m continually tempted to deflect the blame when I sin against You or even make ignorant errors. This just reveals the truth that I don’t want others to see that I can be wrong (I am often wrong). Because of Your loving kindness and mercy You already stepped up to pay the penalty for all of my sin. Lord, help me to live out of the fullness of Your forgiveness. I can hold up my head, even when I make a mistake. I can apologize because it’s no longer a reflection of my identity. Give me the courage today, to point to your perfection more than my (false) flawlessness.
“The buck stops here.”
President Harry S. Truman
REMINDER: SPECIAL EDITION REFLECTIONS: 21 Devotions from Lent to Pentecost. Part I (Lent to Holy Week) available here.