A problem that emerges in most relationships involves upsets between two or more people. Having wisdom about those upsets and what is really going on thus becomes very powerful in making those relationships work better.
A tell-tale sign of wrong attitudes in relationships is that process of blaming others. Accusing and blame shifting are common practices when people are in tension about something.
We are all familiar with the example of a mother calling out in an angry tone, “Who brought this mud into the house?”
And we are all familiar with the chorus of voices saying, “It wasn’t me!”
Getting upset, and doing what we can to avoid trouble are two automatic processes that often get built into our interpersonal communications.
Properly Interpret What is Going On
When we have an idea about something we can be very reluctant to change our mind. This is especially so if the new perspective suggests we are wrong or have a problem.
The whole “blame shifting” routine kicks in if someone tries to suggest that we are a cause of trouble. We don’t like to be wrong and we don’t like to be accused, or exposed for our weaknesses.
In highly competitive contexts we may be very strong in asserting our innocence or trying to cover up our failures.
These human tendencies, based on our pride, become deeply ingrained and some people become famous for their readiness to accuse others or to make up excuses. For example, alcoholics are famously recognised for their ability to cover for their addiction and failures.
It is important for our own health and the health of our relationships that we properly interpret what is going on in our relationships.
Consider the difference in perspective that could be applied in the following statements.
“You often upset me and it takes me days to get over it.”
Or alternatively it might be more accurate to say: “I get into moods about things and take days to get over it.”
“You upset me so you must be wrong.”
This might be better stated as: “I get upset by you, so there is something about my reactions that is not right.”
The Real Issues
Since our true “issues” are not what others do or say but how we react, then it is wrong for us to blame others for the mood we are in, or for our responses. It is what comes out of us that defines the “issues” we have to deal with.
In an earlier article titled Issues of Life, posted on 1/10/11, I discussed a powerful Bible text that exposes what the real issues are in our lives.
“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
This verse tells us that the real “issues” of our life are not what people say or do to us, but what comes out of our heart. Our responses and reactions define the issues, and in fact ARE the true issues.
When a parent gets upset with his or her child, when a husband or wife gets upset with their spouse, or a child is upset by their sibling, the automatic assumption is that the other person is wrong because it seems to the one who is upset that the other person caused it.
It is counter-intuitive to think that we are upset because of our own choices and the weaknesses of our own personality.
Yet the Biblical truth is that it is what comes out of us that is the problem, not what was said or done to us.
What happens to us could well be injustice and wrong. I am not saying that if we are abused it is our fault. People hurt and offend others and we all suffer at the hands of others in some way.
This discussion is about the tendency we have to get into a mood, or some other form or “reaction” toward another, that is really our own responsibility.
Some people have a “hair-trigger” and readily react toward others. They are so ‘touchy’ that others have to walk on egg-shells in order to avoid being at the receiving end of a tirade from that upset person.
This is the substance of manipulation, oppression, abuse of others, control, emotional abuse, imposing self-will onto others, belittling, etc.
People who indulge in such activity are out of order. They have “issues” in their own heart and mind. However they may be able to justify their outbursts, accusations, anger, sharp tongue or other attacks on others without realising they are the oppressor, not the one they are blaming.
This self-delusion, while intuitive, is destructive and a failure to “love others” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which is the Golden Rule given to us by Jesus Christ.
“As you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31
In fact, it may be that a central purpose of the two great commandments, to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, is to force us to realisations that we would be blind to if we thought the world revolved around us.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31
Maybe God’s intention in giving us His laws is not to enslave us to His will, but to lead us into revelation truth about ourselves that will set us free from folly and shame.
So, next time you hear yourself expressing your exasperation, disapproval, anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy, contempt, prejudice, unforgiveness, intolerance, demands, despisement and similar rubbish toward someone else, even if only in your thoughts, stop and realise that YOU HAVE “ISSUES”.
By reflecting on what you are thinking and why you are doing it you can be led into health and release you don’t presently have.
In my family seminars I share the account of my early married life when I found myself readily annoyed and frustrated with my first-born son, Stephen. Susan and I were parents shortly before our fist wedding anniversary and had three children born in short order.
One day I realised that I was particularly hard toward my oldest son, and much more lenient toward the two other boys. It struck me that I was being unfair on him. For some reason I caught myself out being biased against him when it came to rebuke and discipline.
I could justify my reactions by saying, “He’s the oldest so he should know better”, but I sensed there was a deeper issue at work.
I prayed about the matter, confessing my evident bias and asking God to show me what was wrong and what to do.
As I reflected on the situation it struck me that I resented my son. He was the first baby and therefore the first child to take my wife away from me. Susan had to care for the baby, and she had various health challenges along the way. A baby completely changed our married life and reduced our time together and or intimacy. Unconsciously I held Stephen responsible for how that impact on me.
Having realised the impact of a baby I was far less reactive to the impact of my next two sons. So my “issue” was only with Stephen.
Once I realised that situation I was able to pray about it, confessing my selfish responses and attitudes, asking God to forgive me and to heal my heart attitude toward my son.
Some time later I realised to my delight that I had a fresh relationship with my son. I did not feel any of the hardness of heart that had been there before and I enjoyed him as I had not been able to before.
Set Free by Truth
My experience is a testimony to the veracity of God’s Word, which tells us that when we know truth that truth liberates us.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32
So I share these insights with you, in the trust that you will refer back to God’s Word and allow God’s Truth to settle in your heart and set you free.
Your problem, as is common to all humanity, is that we will prefer to believe a lie, if it gives hides our pride, lust, self-will and shame. You will tend to justify your actions, including your selfish and angry responses to others. You will like the idea that THEY are to blame, not you.
I can only pray that the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you, to change your heart and cause you to step into the wonderful freedom that is available to you.