Blame: Yours, Mine and Ours

2:00 AM

Inevitably, sometime between Saxon math and lunch, some sibling would say a not-so-nice comment in a not-so-nice way: "You took my spot again?" The offended sibling would then jab back with his own not-so-nice word: "You've been gone fifteen minutes, you [insert funny bad word banned only in homeschool households]!" Repeat: "Yeah, well, it's my spot. Get out." And then: "Go away. I was here first." But then: "What! I was here before you!" And so: "YOU LEFT." Therefore: "I HATE YOU." Commence screaming.


By this time, I became annoyed enough to peer over my fascinating historical book to glare and snap, "Knock it off, guys." Without fail, two things happened: both ignored me or both turned on me. Usually the latter: "Mind your own beeswax." "There's nowhere to sit and you're taking up an entire couch." "You're always sticking your nose into other people's business." "Be quiet." Which then prompted me to either hide behind my historical read seething with anger at all children under the age of twelve or offer up the innocent observation that both were being babies and were annoying and would they just stop so I could finish this chapter.

Enter Mother to the rescue: "You sit down, and you -- sit down."

"He started it!" both would cry.

Always, she would shoot back, "Well, who's going to end it?"

Ah, fond memories. 

Since this routine occurred every day the sun rose, it should have impressed me with an important life lesson: there's usually a lot of blame to go around. I could clearly see that both the initial offender and the initial offended were in the right and in the wrong at the same time, that the justifiably angered party almost always surpassed the offender in cruel comments and temper, that hot words exchanged by both kept the argument getting worse and worse, and that by the time Mom interfered, both were so hopelessly wrong, angry, sinful and hateful that she rightly disciplined both of them for the same offense. 

Maybe if referees existed in the adult world, we'd recognize this truth about blame more quickly. Ever watch any movie with a married couple? Almost always the husband messes up in some small area and the wife pounces -- passive-agressively, confrontationally, coolly and coldly. The conversation escalates until voices rise, faces harden and doors slam. I know I ought to sympathize with the wife's complaint that her husband was out later than expected or left the toilet seat up or some other high crime, but I'm too busy staring dumbfounded at the screen: Does she seriously not see that she's sinning in every single area of handling this situation? Not even a teensy bit? 

If they had a mother, she would have grounded both for bad behavior.

Parents scream at kids who disobey and then justify their anger because they're parents. Siblings criticize each other and then sigh with exasperation when the other starts yelling. Spouses spat because the wife says something unkind and then the husband bristles and then she helpfully points out his anger problem which gets him hollering which has her screaming back his whole history of offenses starting from the day they met. What's worse is that after someone stomps out or the room goes icy cold, both parties focus only on the unbelievable blindness and immaturity and wrongness of the other.

Because we cannot tow around an objective third party for every single moment of our lives, Jesus gave us a simple rule: 

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." 
- Matthew 7:1-5 -

This passage has been refereeing my criticisms lately. Every time a conversation gets tense, every time I notice something wrong in the other person, every time I get hurt or annoyed or angered, I check to see if there's a log blinding my view. Perhaps I only imagined a speck in my brother's eye -- or perhaps it's really there. In any case, getting something so small out of something so sensitive requires gentleness, clarity, calmness.

And that's how I need to view criticism -- as digging around in other people's eyes. Change and growth and repentance are sensitive areas. Nobody likes them touched -- least of all me. I don't have authorization to go gouging out people's eyes in my zeal to make them perfect. For one thing, it's not my eye. For another thing, sin is an irritant: they either notice it already or will soon notice it, especially a Christian. And for the final thing, I usually have a plank jabbed in my own eye that I desperately need to deal with.

It's been absolutely humiliating how much sin I've discovered in my life because of this simple idea of stopping and checking for planks. I never realized how critical, petty and grumpy I was. I didn't know how hurtful my insensitive observations were. I never noticed how many opportunities for grace I passed up in favor of "being right."

For instance, the other day someone hurt my feelings. Big Time. This someone's speck glared obvious to me. I stopped and checked for planks and saw how overly sensitive I was, how eager I was to have a complaint to nurse, how petty my complaint actually was, how easily I could have ignored this offense, how ridiculous and over-the-top my response was. And then I flopped down and groaned about how sinful I was and how this plank business was so hard and how I'd never be able to change -- which then led to a conviction about how much of a drama queen I was. People, I'm still learning.

Another convicting thing? The whole measure for measure thing. Once, I criticized something minor about my boy before checking for planks, but when I did, the horror of truth hit me: if I'm criticizing him so minutely, how on earth would I withstand my own scrutiny? The results weren't pretty. See, he measures me according to grace, letting go my faults, not only forgiving and forgetting them but not even bringing them up in the first place. He will be judged according to graciousness. I measure according to my own warped sense of rightness, finding fault with everything, taking offense at everything. I am judged by the same standard I judge others with, and I cannot even withstand a brief interrogation with that standard form of justice. I'm quickly learning to follow his example and overhaul my standards so that I measure with grace.

I've never done this before. Sometimes it takes all day to put my heart in a place where I get over a fault instead of bringing it up. Sometimes it takes a sleepless night of soul-searching until I finally get the point that hey, this person has graciously forgiven me bigger sins than the one I'm currently criticizing in him. And even if everyone around me judges me just as hard, my Father in heaven has forgiven and forgotten every single one of my sins. If that's a good enough standard for Him, it's a good enough standard for me.

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2 impressions

  1. something i'm learning about grace for others in the human heart: it can be messy, difficult, seemingly abnormal, and all other sorts of weirdness that's counter to our sinful nature. but it's worth it. it's life-changing. it's life-defining. and it's beautiful. it makes us more like jesus. and THAT makes it all worth it.

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  2. This gives "planking" a whole new meaning. If *this* caught on...how great would that be?

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