“It Is Not My Fault!”
CAN you always make that statement? People are affected by the words and deeds of others. At times, they may justifiably become angry, or may sink into deep depression, because of the acts or remarks of their associates.
Perhaps you have had such experiences. However, are you certain that you have not been responsible for the anger, depression or suffering of others? Indeed, can you always say, “It is not my fault”?
CRUELTY AND WRONGDOING BRING OSTRACISM
Normally, individuals desire to have at least some pleasant association with fellow humans. In fact, persons often become quite distressed if others ignore them. They may even think that those seemingly avoiding them are thoughtless or unloving.
Yet the blame may not rest totally with the acquaintances of the “ignored” individual. An inspired proverb states: “A man of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul, but the cruel person is bringing ostracism upon his own organism.” (Prov. 11:17) Yes, we may be hard on ourselves when we are unkind and cruel to others. Eventually, those we treat harshly may not desire our association, even if they “ignore” us simply because they no longer want to be hurt as a result of our cruelty.
We can also be ostracized because of our wrong conduct. In ancient Israel, household heads who did not comply with God’s commandments could bring ostracism upon their own houses. For example, Achan robbed God by improperly appropriating to himself a certain garment from Shinar, 200 shekels of silver and a gold bar. But when Achan’s wrongdoing was uncovered, ‘Jehovah brought ostracism upon him,’ and both he and members of his family were stoned to death. (Josh. chap. 7) Today, the head of a Christian household and others in his family may get involved in wrongdoing that results in their being disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation. Actually, such a man who personally violates God’s Word and tolerates serious wrongdoing within his family ‘brings ostracism upon his own house.’ (Prov. 11:29) He, and perhaps others in his family, are justly ostracized by faithful Christians, being excluded from their association as unrepentant wrongdoers. (1 Cor. 5:11-13) Faced with this result of wrongdoing, such a man can hardly say, “It is not my fault!”
WHEN SUITABLE HELP IS NOT RENDERED
Christian elders should, of course, endeavor to aid fellow believers who unwittingly take a false step. The apostle Paul put matters this way: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1) Yet, if the appointed congregational elders fail to render spiritual aid when appropriate, are they totally free of responsibility if the erring person finally succumbs to temptation?
On the other hand, much depends on how aid is rendered. Paul said that those having spiritual qualifications should readjust the erring man “in a spirit of mildness.” But suppose an elder does not offer counsel in mildness, and, as a result, the individual being counseled becomes very depressed, angry or otherwise upset. Because of receiving harsh treatment, the erring person may not be ‘readjusted,’ and may even persist in a wrong course. Under such circumstances, can the unkind elder really say, “It is not my fault”?—Compare Luke 17:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 6:3.
WHEN THERE IS OPPRESSION
Then, too, what if a person having authority over others proves to be oppressive? Because of his harsh dealings with them, some may find it nearly impossible to have peace of mind and may, in fact, have to make supreme efforts to control their spirit. This is not surprising, for we are told in Scripture: “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.”—Eccl. 7:7.
Indeed, prolonged oppression may cause even a wise individual to act rashly. For instance, he may lose self-control and do something wrong. If he does so, can the oppressor shrug off all responsibility and say, “It is not my fault”?
On the other hand, Ecclesiastes 7:7 may relate to oppression that the wise one himself engages in, acting contrary to human decency and blinding himself to the plight of the oppressed. He may act crazy by letting an oppressive spirit dominate him and may envision himself as some great benefactor having the right to crush anyone who dares to criticize his methods. (Compare 2 Chronicles 16:10.) But the oppressor’s mistaken concept certainly does not make him blameless.
THE NEED FOR LOVE AND TRUST
Naturally, the question of blameworthiness relates to many aspects of life. For example, consider the marital union. Love, tenderness and mutual concern are essential to happiness in wedlock. But what if a marriage mate fails to display these qualities? And what if he or she should deliberately and consistently refuse to render the marital due?
Under the pressure of such denial, and in the absence of love, tenderness and true concern, the rejected mate may succumb to temptation and commit adultery. If that should happen, can the unloving marriage partner disclaim all responsibility by saying, “It is not my fault”? Hardly!
It was to prevent such developments that the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be depriving each other of [the marital due], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.”—1 Cor. 7:1-5.
Whether a Christian is dealing with a member of his family or with someone outside the household, he should act in a way that inspires trust. A person bent on accomplishing his purposes regardless of the welfare of others may be tempted to resort to devious schemes, assuming that the desired end justifies the means used to achieve it. But what often happens when others find that an associate ‘has in his mouth a tricky tongue’? (Mic. 6:12) They are not likely to trust the devious person in the future and may keep their distance from him. He probably will find this upsetting. But if he brings it on himself, can he say, “It is not my fault”?
A SERIOUS MATTER
Those victimized by a person having a tricky tongue may not always realize what he has done. But there is One who always knows, and he places blame where it belongs. We are assured in the Scriptures: “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah, but His intimacy is with the upright ones.” (Prov. 3:32) True, the individual devious in words and actions may delude himself, even thinking that he is justified in using his tricky tongue slyly and resorting to questionable methods. For that matter, fellow humans may not have sufficient evidence to “give him a rebuke.” (Luke 17:3) But if such a person never corrects his ways, before God his position is hopeless. Jehovah considers the devious individual detestable, and only the upright can enjoy intimacy with God.
In the final analysis, then, all must answer to the Most High. (Rom. 14:10-12) This emphasizes the importance of yielding to the direction of God’s spirit and inspired Word, while constantly praying for aid in personally shunning cruelty, wrongdoing, irresponsibility, oppressive methods, loveless dealings and untrustworthiness. Yes, in many circumstances, a person may not necessarily be able to brush aside responsibility merely by saying, “It is not my fault!”