As soon as you hear the sound, you know something is terribly, terribly wrong. Before the child’s scream, before the panicked cries of others, you feel your heart sink. It’s just not a normal sound. It’s unusual. Unexpected. It’s not a sound you’ve ever heard before, but you can immediately identify it. It’s the sound of an impact. A dull, sickening thud.
That’s the sound Lance heard. As the adrenaline rushed through his body, he quickly scanned across the crowd of faces at his best friend’s end-of-the-year backyard barbeque. The only missing face was his 5-year old son, Johnny. It took Lance less than two seconds to realize that as he was talking with the other fathers, Johnny chased a ball through the backyard gate and right into the busy street.
As Lance scooped up his hurting, tearful son, Lance’s wife Kari rushed out beside him, yanked Johnny from Lance’s arms, and coldly spewed out for all their assembled friends to hear, “You were supposed to be watching him!”
While the above account is certainly a much more extreme example, this type of scenario happens all the time. It all started with Adam. “Yes. I did it. But it was her…you know…that woman that you gave to me…she’s the one who enticed me. Yeah, maybe I was a little lonely, but I didn’t even ask for her. You just put her into my life.”
Then it quickly spread to Eve. “Yes. I did it. But it was the serpent. He’s a smooth talker and I fell for his line. If you’re really looking for who’s at fault in all of this, I think you only need to look at that crafty, misleading, beguiling serpent. This garden would be such a nicer place to live if he were not around.”
And, here we are, untold generations later still doing the exact same thing. We all do it to some extent. I’m talking about “the blame game.” The blame game is that nasty habit that people have of blaming others for everything from their own moral failures to missed opportunities. It is the ongoing exhibition of living in a victim-mentality society. If left unchecked, the blame game is detrimental to any relationship, but especially to a marriage. Between a husband and wife the blame game is at best a miserable experience and at worst a death sentence for the relationship. And no, the irony is not lost on me that I am blaming Adam and Eve for the current state of affairs.
First, a little self-examination. The vast majority of people who get trapped in the blame game exude a victim mentality, live in a constant state of denial, and have absolutely no conscientious idea that they do so. However, a couple of characteristics are typically obvious. First, the blame game perpetuates an ongoing self-centeredness. People who blame others for everything that goes wrong in their life are usually so self-absorbed that they honestly cannot comprehend a world which does not revolve around them and their problems. They might use terminology like, “I know I’m not perfect,” but it is always followed by the indicting “but” which squarely places the blame for their imperfection on someone else or some outside circumstance.
Second, people who are wrapped up in the blame game sink deeper and deeper into isolation. They believe that no one cares for them. No one understands their circumstances. Either no one can or is willing to help them. In their minds, they are all alone, so they lash out at the perceived “insensitivity” of others and drive others away. And the paradox is that the very thing they crave, community, is what they continuously reject because of the cycle the blame game creates.
So, how do you eradicate the blame/victim mentality from your marriage? The first step is recognition. Look at yourself as honestly as you can and ask a trusted friend if you are sinking deeper into selfishness or isolation, especially toward your mate. (Make sure the friend is someone who really knows you and who cares for you enough to be willing to offend you for your own good and not just agree with you to make you feel good.) If you begin to believe that everyone is pulling away from you—including your mate—then it’s time to start the introspection.
Next, cultivate an environment of responsibility in your home. Confession can be a really, really tough thing, especially if it is embarrassing or hurtful. But the blame game can’t survive in a marriage where spouses are willing to admit their faults. When both spouses are willing to acknowledge their own shortcomings and admit that they are imperfect people, then the victim mentality doesn’t have a place to grow and thrive. It’s hard to use blame to try and position one’s self as a long-suffering martyr or use blame to try and manipulate someone when that person has already owned up to his/her own part in a problem.
Finally, to eradicate the blame game from your marriage, it is essential that you live in forgiveness, grace, and mercy. We are fallen people living in a fallen world. The worldly nature tells us to blame others and protect ourselves at any cost. The spiritual nature however, leads us to seek reconciliation and unity with our mates. That leads to a vulnerability which leaves us open to incredible oneness. If abused it can lead to incredible pain, but without forgiveness, grace, and mercy healing is just not possible.Certainly there are other characteristics of a blame game mentality, and there are other ways to win against a marriage tainted by blame, but this is a start in moving from blame to blessing.