The Blame Game

UP ALL NIGHT? BLAME IT ON THE GENES. The title of this news item really caught my eyes. Can’t sleep? Blame it on your parents – and your grandparents and your great-grandparents. Scientists are searching for the gene that throws some people’s body clock out of sync with the rest of the world. This is what researchers at the University of Utah have just discovered.

Obviously who am I to find fault in a report prepared by experts?! But, really, this is becoming a farce! It is going too far! We live in a day when psychology, psychiatry and sociology are constantly trying to reduce our accountability. It is always the fault of others or of something else. Never ours!

It is true that we are victims of many forces in life and no one can tell just how much are we responsible for what we decide to do. But one fact remains valid. Somewhere within the personal dynamics of the good or wrong we do, it is we who make a choice.

We choose, we act, we are accountable, we are responsible. Not my father, not my mother, not my bad childhood, not my genes, not my compulsions. It is me!

Victimology Or Claiming Victim Status

Our modern world is very fond of passing the buck. Evading responsibility has become an art. It all started long way back in the Garden of Eden. When confronted with God, Adam immediately pointed to Eve. And Eve quickly targeted the serpent!

Adam and Eve has set the pattern for human behavior. Of course we are careful to take all the credit for our virtues and achievements. But for our sins and faults.. we always look for someone to blame.

Have you ever overheard students discussing the results of their exams. One says “I got an A”. The other sulks, “He gave me an F”! One indicates, “I was so bright to get maximum results”; the other retorts, “the teacher did not like me and failed me”! We play so well the part of the victim!

The cover of TIME Magazine had this caption a couple of years ago : “Infidelity : It may be in our genes”!! This is the reason behind adultery – I am psychically disposed to betray my wife!!! Another excuse which is flaunted around so easily is, “My parents never loved me. It is their fault… They made me do it. If you only knew the kind of family I was raised in, you would understand why I break my commitments and think of no one but myself!”

The excuses are really a mixed motley! Accidents in traffic – road rage. Crime – environment of poverty. Addictions – genes. An FBI agent who embezzled $2000.00 and lost it in one night of gambling, proved successfully to the court that it was not his fault – he was just a victim of ‘compulsive gambling syndrome’. He was reinstated!!!

Anything to justify the messes we do. “I’m so unlucky in love!” said a woman after three unhappy marriages… “I’m only human” is another favorite defense-plea! Or the problem is God, who made me this way. Or the devil who made me do it. Or the institutions – all the accused in the Nuremburg trials after World War II defended themselves by claiming “Hitler told me to do it.”

Alan Dershowitz, one of OJ Simpson’s attorneys, said about the trial, “Now you’re going to see the defense brutally attacking these victims. By the end of this trial, nobody is going to have a kind thing to say about the two dead people!” The victims become the accused and the criminal becomes the innocent one!

The Lighter Burden

Although the blame game is a highly popular game, it is a dreadfully injurious one. As Anthony M. Coniaris says in his book “Living Responsibly in an Age of Excuse”, blaming others never heals, it always hurts. It never builds relationships, it only breaks them. It never unites, it always divides. It never solves a problem, it only compounds it.

Jesus Christ is so adamant in helping us admit our faults and taking up our responsibilities just for this reason. Because this liberates us! In response to a query from his disciple who is to blame, Jesus says simply, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eyes? Or how can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eyes, when there is a log in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye…”

I am the one who have a serious eye ailment because I have a log in my eye. I am the problem. Not my genes. Not others. Genes are not dictators. We are not puppets. Mere ants carrying our genetic mandates! There is still room, I hope!, for moral choices.

Responsibility comes from two words – respond and able. To be responsible means that I am able to respond. I am able to act. As Malcolm X once said, “If you get knocked down to the ground by someone else, that’s not your fault. But if days and weeks pass, and you’re still lying there, that is your fault.”

The first step in solving a problem is to admit you have a problem! Then call it by its proper name. We are not just victims. We are sinners.

It is only when we accept responsibility for ourselves that we take the first step to betterment. You cannot solve a problem unless you take responsibility for it. We see it in the family. As soon as the guilty partner says, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” there is no more misunderstanding.

The same thing happens in our relationship with God. The moment the prodigal son acknowledged his fault, he was welcomed to a banquet. Jesus came to set us free from the heavy burden of trying to justify ourselves. His blood cleanses sins, not excuses!

“We have put aside the light burden of self accusation and put on ourselves the heavy burden of self justification” says John The Dwarf, one of the Desert Fathers.

This was David’s greatness – his confession. “I have sinned against you, only against You, and have done what you consider evil.” Play more the confession-game and less the blame game, the Church suggests!!

Who, me?! Yes, Lord, it’s me, standing in need of forgiveness!


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.