Can You Shoulder Blame?
FAILURE to shoulder blame is a weakness that is as old as the human race. But prone as men are to shift the blame, one’s trying to get out from under just blame has nothing to recommend it. It is neither honest nor loving; and neither is it wise, for, as with all courses based on shortsighted self-interest, its advantages are short-lived and outweighed by its disadvantages.
Take, as an example, the first man, Adam. When called to account by his Maker and Benefactor, the Supreme Judge of the universe, he bluntly blamed Eve: “She gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate it.” (Gen. 3:12) How unloving to shift the blame on to his wife instead of simply admitting that he had eaten!
He even tried to shift the blame to God, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit.” In other words, ‘What can you expect? You gave me this woman; you are to blame, not I.’ Forgotten now was the long time he had looked in vain among the lower animals for a mate; forgotten now also was the great joy when he was first introduced to Eve and he had exclaimed: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”!—Gen. 2:18-3:12.
Since Adam set such a poor example, it is not surprising that Eve failed to shoulder her blame but tried to shift it to the serpent that spoke to her. But did her failure and that of Adam to shoulder the blame absolve them from the consequences of their disobedience? Did it gain for them mercy? How could God show them mercy when they showed no sign of repentance, no sign of grief or sorrow for having violated God’s law?—Gen. 3:13-19.
In view of the bad start made by our first parents in not being willing to shoulder blame, it is not at all surprising that their offspring have been prone to follow a like course. In fact, it is one of the characteristics of our time. Among the striking examples in our day of failure to shoulder blame is that in relation to juvenile delinquency. Parents are prone to blame the schools, the police, the times in which we are living; and true, all deserve a measure of the blame. But the lion’s share of it rests upon the parents of the delinquent youths, for does not God’s Word tell us: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it”?—Prov. 22:6.
Lending their voices in support of this Scriptural position were three Scandinavian police authorities: J. Westlin, assistant police commissioner in Sweden, Alsnaes Anderson, assistant police commissioner in Denmark, and John Gjerde, chief of police in Norway. When these were asked who they thought were to blame for the criminal behavior of youth, they all answered without hesitation: “The parents!” According to them: “As the schools no longer have the legal right to maintain order [administer corporal punishment], the responsibility rests with the parents.”
Obviously, since this is so, how can parents expect an improvement if they refuse to shoulder the blame and do something about it? If their children are prone to delinquency, they should do some soul-searching, and see where they have come short in giving the children of their time, of their love and of the needed discipline.
Not that delinquent youths themselves are without blame. By no means! Many of them know what is right and what is wrong. At least they know how they would like to be treated themselves, and simple logic indicates that they should treat others the same way. No, delinquent youths may not shift the whole blame onto their parents. They can set worthwhile goals for themselves, they can refuse to go along with a gang bent on mischief, they can keep from abusing the love of their parents by disciplining themselves and thus show they appreciate the debt of gratitude they owe their parents for bringing them into the world and providing them with things needful.
Another case in point is the race issue. There is much violent agitation today in many lands because of the injustices of discrimination. But does the blame rest wholly with the other fellow? Not according to Mr. F——, who, though reared in poverty, is said to have “reached a level of business success attained by very few men—white or Negro.” He points out that those discriminated against also have responsibilities to do what they can to better their lot and may not follow the lines of least resistance.
The same principle applies to our everyday affairs. Have we acted unwisely, carelessly, selfishly, and so are called to account? Then let us shoulder the blame. We are far more likely to receive just and merciful treatment when we openly admit our fault and shoulder the blame than if we try to get out from under it. In fact, our frankness in admitting a fault creates respect for us. It testifies to our honesty and to our loving our neighbor as ourselves.
By being willing to shoulder the blame we show another fine quality, that of modesty. Who does not make mistakes? Who does not sin? The Bible answers, “No man.” (1 Ki. 8:46) The truth is that shouldering blame is more likely to reveal the modesty of a person than does the way he receives praise. It is easy to appear modest when we are being praised, but when being censured we are most likely to betray whether we are truly modest. If we are modest we will not be anxious to justify ourselves but will be ready to admit wherein we have come short. More than that, for the sake of peace it may sometimes even be advisable for us to shoulder blame for something we did not do, so long as no great issue or principle is involved.
When we shoulder the blame for our mistakes, it has a wholesome effect upon us. It strengthens us for right and gives us self-respect. More than that, we may keep an innocent person from being blamed; we are given a lesson that may help us to avoid making the same mistake again, and, above all, we show that we are more concerned with what God thinks of us than what man thinks. Truly, willingness to shoulder blame has everything to recommend it!