According to the Genesis narrative, when questioned by God regarding his awareness of his nakedness and whether he had eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam seemed to have had no reservations about blaming Eve. In response to God’s questions, Adam replied: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12, KJV). In other words, “I ate of the tree but it is not my fault. My wife and companion, the woman you gave me, she gave me of the tree.” With these words, Adam demonstrated an instinctive response that has been characteristic of every human being since. When confronted with a deviant behaviour or a wrong for which we are responsible, blame someone else. The sequence of events in the garden that day affirmed this tendency. When God confronted Eve, she blamed the serpent (v.13). And so it continues.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the words of the Psalmist, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6a). David wrote those words after his transgression with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11). He did not try to hide his wrong nor did he blame Bathsheba, a beautiful woman he saw bathing while he was out walking around on the roof of the palace, for their adulterous affair. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, he threw himself on God’s mercy: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:1-4). Change is only possible when we first take steps to acknowledge our wrongs and take personal responsibility for our behaviours. For the believer, this is an important first step. David reminds us of God’s delight: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (vv. 16-17).
Blaming others is easy. In doing so we irrationally believe that we do not have to own our behaviours or our part in any disagreements. Instead of asking ourselves “What did I do to contribute to this problem?” “Is there something I could and should have done differently?” we, like Adam and Eve, hide by blaming. Without even realizing it, we immediately start losing respect for those we deem blameworthy, we treat them with disrespect, and we come out of a stinky situation smelling like roses. However, we fail to recognize that while it may make us feel good about ourselves, irrationally blaming others retards our personal and spiritual growth. Our sacrifices of worship are deemed unacceptable until we are reconciled with those we have hurt (Matthew 5:23-24). In other words, there is no going forward until we come clean with ourselves, with others, and with God.
We all make mistakes and engage in regrettable actions. By failing to take personal responsibility, the road to constructive change is blocked. Better to blame others than to admit culpability. From our perspective, making mistakes means being flawed and being flawed means being unworthy of respect so we preserve self at all cost. But God does not see it that way. Walking with Him requires “a clean heart” and a “right spirit”; that includes taking responsibility for the wrongs we do. No matter the transgression, as long as we bare ourselves before Him, He is still in the business of forgiving. Just ask David.