Prior to this day there had only been one way in which the couple could sin and that was by choosing to eat the fruit God had forbidden. As long as they did not eat it, they fully enjoyed each other and lived naked and unashamed. They also enjoyed interacting with the Lord regularly. Immediately after eating the fruit, they were overwhelmed with shame as revealed by their desire to cover themselves. They were no longer comfortable in their own skins and no longer free to be open with each other. Along with the shame they experienced, they became fearful as revealed by their choice to hide from the One who had created them.
Shame, guilt and fear--those uncomfortable emotions we all want to avoid. Guilt leaves us with a sinking feeling in our hearts, reminding us of our disobedience, rebellion, and desire to do our own will rather than God's. Shame causes faces to glow hot, heads to drop, eyes to avert, and bodies to slump in an attempt to hide. It comes as we begin to believe we are the choices we've made and wonder if we are not enough and too much at the same time. Guilt and shame so often give way to fear, which can leave us shaken to the core as we believe we will be rejected if we are truly known. Fear can also be born out of a belief that we have lost perceived control--control of what other think about us, control over the relationships we've broken, control over others, and control over our circumstances. Out of the need to dispel these vulnerable emotions, blamers often take on anger, which feels more powerful. And that anger comes out in angry words being vented like a hot volcano spewing lava and that anger births blame.
I have had many interactions with people who have adopted blame as an integral part of their defense mechanisms. They are no longer blaming just to avoid facing their sin, but they are also blaming as a way of coping with all sorts of painful emotions. I have known people who are struggling with depression that hasn't been diagnosed who, in their pain, look for someone or something to pin the anger on.
Some people get stuck in patterns of blaming themselves for everything. This placates their fear of rejection as they believe if someone looks too closely at them or their lives they will walk away. They believe by "beating themselves up" noone else will. This shields them from the discomfort of healthy confrontations, from the fear of rejection, and from the fear of someone else's anger if they were to confront ungodly, unhealthy behaviors hurting them. Sadly, this turns anger inward, resulting in depression and loneliness, which in the long run feels worse. It also keeps people from having mutual relationships in which iron sharpens iron, something we need for both personal growth and the growth of true intimacy.
On the other hand, some practice blaming others. These people often come across as angry and critical as they project their anger outwardly. Sometimes it's global anger in which they are angry at the whole world. Sometimes it is anger projected at God whom they believe hasn't acted on their behalf. Sometimes it is at a people groups, the government, or religious organizations. Sometimes the anger is aimed at a specific person because they hold that person responsible for their happiness or because the person triggers their insecurities or reminds them of something painful they've experienced. Blaming others tends to give someone a feeling of power because they believe if they can find out who is to blame they can fix it. The anger blamers experience can alleviate the discomfort of feeling vulnerable emotions, but can destroy relationships as they lash out at others.
It is important for us, as believers, to understand blaming may make us feel more powerful and in control in the face of pain or the aftermath of sin, but that is a false sense of control. Blaming is the opposite of the accountability to which God has called us. It stops us from leaning into the mistakes we have made and learning from them. Brene Brown says that we gravitate to blame because it is much faster than accountability and I think she is right.
However, for us Christians, accountability is an integral part of the sanctification process. It is a vulnerable process that requires courage, humility, and a lot of time. It includes things like the ownership of one's actions and emotions and that feels risky. It includes the confession of one's sin and hurtful behaviors that have harmed relationships and that feels risky. It includes developing the empathy to hear another's point of view, while giving up the tendency to defend, deflect, or blame and that feels risky. It includes the boldness to share how another's actions have impacted us and to ask for change and that feels risky. It includes forgiving and asking for forgiveness and that feels risky. It includes a committment to do the hard work required for personal grown and change and that feels risky, too. The most important truth to remember is that God took a risk on us when He sent His Son to die in our place for our sin. No one wins when they play the blame game, but we win when we put on humility and lean into God in our failure and our pain, allowing Him to work in our hearts and our lives.
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