Living in Destin can be hard sometimes. We have great weather, the water is beautiful, and we have great fishing — it’s such a burden! Why do all those great things make it so hard to live here? Because it makes it REALLY hard for me to get any work done. Amost every day seems like a good day to ditch work and go fishing, but I guess that wouldn’t make me a very good boss. As much as I’d like to blame my need to work two days a week and fish five on where we live, I have a feeling that excuse wouldn’t go over well at staff meetings.
As people, we have a knack for passing off responsibility if we can help it, or passing the blame to someone else when we mess up. It’s part of human nature. We all know someone who has refused to take responsibility of their own lives and we tend to look down on them because it means we might have to pick up the slack for them. But irresponsibility is also something we might have a hard time seeing in ourselves. That’s why it’s so easy to blame someone else when we get in trouble, because it’s not always easy to recognize when your being irresponsible.
People have been dodging responsibility since the beginning of time and we see examples of this all over the Bible. In the very first book, Genesis, God has given Adam and Eve the responsibility of overseeing all of the Earth and cultivating it. All God asked was that they didn’t eat the fruit of one tree in the garden. Most of us probably know what happens next: The serpent temps Eve with the fruit, she eats and gives it to Adam and he eats it. After they eat the fruit, they feel ashamed and hide from God. In chapter 3 verse 12-13 we see Adam and Eve passing the blame around: “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”
This is a story a lot of us have probably heard growing up, but there’s probably a point to the story that we don’t think about much, and it’s that passing blame on to others or our circumstances doesn’t make life better for us in the long run. It actually makes us less fulfilled. This is why you will never find someone smiling after they have successfully shifted the blame, because even when they’re successful, they still carry the guilt of not carrying out their responsibility. We were created to carry certain levels of responsibility and when you shirk them and expect somebody else to pay for it, you keep yourself from reaching your God given potential. Because we were designed to be responsible, we’re happiest and the most fulfilled when we take responsibility.
Here are a couple of suggestions to get your brain wrapped around this concept. The first is to listen to your blame, and by that I mean listen to the words that come out of your mouth as it relates to your responsibility. See, we have self-taught ourselves to blame and shift the responsibility off of ourselves to others or our surroundings, so it’s important to recognize your own blame terminology. As you catch yourself blaming, stop and ask yourself “Am I taking responsibility for my life — really?”
The second part of the exercise it to ask yourself “What is in my slice of the pie,” or what percentage of the conflict that I’m in am I responsible for? You may not be able to take full responsibility for your situation, but you have to be able to fess up to yourself about what portion of your problems are you responsible for. When we get into conflict with family members or co-workers we have a tendency to focus on the other person’s share of the blame, but if you can get both parties to focus on their own piece of responsibility than you can make progress.
God has created you to handle responsibility and you are happiest when you successfully and effectively handle it, but we live in a contagious culture of irresponsibility, so we have got to be more proactive. It begins with asking ourselves that simple question: “Am I taking responsibility for my life — really?”
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.