Blaming Others

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.

Different Perspectives

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.

Natural Impulse

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.

Touchy People

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.

Loving Others

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.

Example

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.

Marriage Moment of Truth

Marriages start out on an exciting note, full of happy expectation. Yet some of those marriages end up on the trash heap. At some point from the engagement to the divorce something went wrong. Whatever the challenges are that lead to a failed marriage other marriages weather the storm and come through stronger.

So, along the way from the proposal to the decree nisi there is some telling moment or development that tips the scales from success to sabotage; from freedom to failure; and from celebration to shame. So, we’re looking for the Moment of Truth in Marriage, where that tipping point is encountered.

Tipping Point

The Moment of Truth is that point in the couple’s journey where they make a decision, balk at a hurdle, draw a line or otherwise change the course of their relationship. What started as delight became bogged down with disappointment. Strife replaced celebration and the couple began to move toward the death of their marriage.

Now, the tipping point is not the same for each couple. Some couples know that it is all over by the end of the honeymoon. Other couples work together for thirty-five years before ending their marriage. For some there is a major shock, such as unfaithfulness, that bombards the relationship. For others some subtle, slow process sets in that eats away at the union.

This makes it hard to come up with a simplistic “tipping point” definition.

Attitude Not Action

The tipping point, or Moment of Truth, when a relationship takes a turn toward its own destruction cannot be built on an action. Marriages have proven to be incredibly resilient. Marriages have survived and even flourished after such tragedies and traumas as abuse, violence, adultery, death of a child, financial ruin, war, betrayal, attempted suicide, mental breakdown, and more.

The tipping point, then, is not an action. Instead it is an attitude. The attitude may spring to life in response to an action, but it is wrong to blame the action. Others have endured the same treatment, circumstances, disappointment, stress and so on, without destroying their marriage. So it must be firmly stated that the problem is NOT the action.

However, when a wrong attitude comes into the picture it can be poisonous, impossible to endure and persistent to the point of total destruction. The tipping point is the point at which a wrong attitude takes root, setting the course toward ultimate ruin.

Biblical Warning

Since the Bible is supremely relevant and current, we should expect it to speak clearly to this issue, and it does. There is a serious warning given in the New Testament which is probably directly linked to the Moment of Truth, or Tipping Point in marriage.

The Biblical warning is that people MUST give grace to one another. Specifically they are to give each other the “grace of God”. That means that they are to forgive each other, accept each other and be considerate of each other, in the same way that God is gracious to all of humanity. God gives sunshine and rain to both the good people and evil people. God is gracious, even to people who are campaigning to prove that God does not exist.

Humans, then, are to be ever willing to tolerate and be gracious to each other, just as God is.

But the warning goes further than that. The Biblical warning is that if a person fails to provide God’s grace to others the only alternative is that the evil attitude of bitterness will spring up in their life and lead to all kinds of problems.

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:14,15

Let me paraphrase that text for you this way: “Be at peace with everyone. And keep yourself holy. If you are not holy you will never see God. Be diligent to keep on giving God’s grace to people. If you don’t a root of bitterness will spring up within you and agitate you. A root of bitterness will make trouble for many people around you.”

Key Moment

The key moment in your marriage is not how or where you propose. It’s not how long your engagement is. It is not the wedding day, or the wedding night. It’s not the honeymoon. It’s not your first year, or your first home. It’s not based on how soon the kids come along, or how many you have or don’t have. It’s not about how much money you have or whether one, both or none of you work.

The key moment in any marriage is that moment when one or other of the couple decides to stop giving grace to the other. When one person makes the internal decision, “I’ve had enough of that”, “I’m not taking any more of this”, “I won’t forgive them this time”, or something like that, they have tipped the marriage into the path toward destruction.

It is possible for a couple to come close to that point several times, and still survive. If the person tips back, changing their mind and forgiving, extending grace, accepting the one they had decided to reject, then they can undo the damage that has been done. But when they come to that point and decide to stick on that track, that’s when the end has been determined.

The Grace of God

The most valuable ingredient you can bring into any relationship, then, is the grace of God. A couple which has determined to always forgive and extend grace to each other will be able to ride over the ups and downs of their relationship.

Remember that bitterness only springs up when someone has determined to stop giving God’s grace. As long as the graces of forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, sacrificial commitment and such like are poured into a marriage that marriage can weather any storm or strain.

When the attitude turns from one that gives grace to one that digs in with hardness of heart, bitterness takes root and poisons the mind, attitudes, decisions and relationships.

Remember, the problem is not the actions experienced, but the attitudes taken up in response to those things.

Moments of Grace

Protect your marriage with moments of grace. Tip your marriage toward success and indestructibility. Determine, with God’s help, to give grace to each other. Determine to continue extending grace, God’s grace, no matter what.

Instead of having Moments of Truth and Tipping Points that turn your marriage into dust, have Moments of Grace and multiple Turning Points which turn your marriage back to God’s grace and God’s miraculous provision for your happiness and success.

The Heart of Your Child

It is vital that you train the heart of your children. However it is popular to ignore this essential process and give in to shallow alternatives. Since many young parents have not thought these issues through I am penning these notes as a guide to parents.

The Heart of the Matter

The most important part of your child’s development is the training of their heart. While we may not be aware of what is going on inside other people, including our children, the Bible tells us that God looks on the heart.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

God’s prophet, Samuel, did what people naturally do. He looked on external things. God accurately accused men of taking notice of external things – “man looks on the outward appearance”. That is why people have to take ‘first impressions’ seriously and why image is such a big deal for worldly people. It should not be so for those who love and follow God, but sadly appearance and image is a major focus of some churches today.

Since God looks on your child’s heart it is essential that you make it a key focus on your attention.

The Heart of Your Child is Exposed by What Comes Out

Jesus had much to say about what comes out of the heart. He said that we are defiled by what comes out of us. He then listed a bunch of things that find their source in the human heart.

“The words which come out of the mouth come from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” Jesus Christ, Matthew 15:18-19

Jesus is pointing here to both the words people speak and the motivations that lead them to do evil things. So wise parents will be attentive to the spontaneous expressions from their children and also from the behaviour patterns the children display.

A winning smile on the face of a child can be deceptive. Sweet words of promise and nicety may be a cover for wrong intentions. In the same way that adults can be expert at this level of deception, some children know how to play up to their parents’ expectations.

Key Lessons For the Heart

The heart is troubled by the presence of foolishness, which Solomon warns us is bound in the heart of every child (Proverbs 22:15). So it is important for each parent to respect the particular process that God prescribes for removing that foolishness. The prescribed process is to use the rod of correction on the child.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Solomon, Proverbs 22:15

Obedience is a key test of the child’s heart. If a child refuses to obey then they have foolishness. So getting the child to promptly obey the parent is a key heart training process. This involves them submitting to the parent’s authority. In that process they learn to fear the Lord, giving respect to God’s requirement that they obey their parents.

Games and Tricks Don’t Train the Heart

Some parents think that they are doing quite well if they get the desired action from the child. But it is not the action that is the most important. What is important, as we saw earlier, is the heart of the child. God does not look on the outward evidence but on the heart.

If you instruct a child to eat their food and the child is reluctant to obey, then a matter of the heart has been exposed. The child’s rebellious or independent attitude is a more serious matter than the nutritional value of the meal.

Many parents, however, become distracted with the external element, getting the food into the child. They can completely miss the much more serious issue of the child’s heart. Clever parents can resort to games to get the child to eat. “Let’s pretend that the spoon is a train and your mouth is a tunnel. Let the train into the tunnel.”

Such games may be fun, but they set the parent and child up for future pain. The child’s heart is left in a rebellious state, even though all the food is eaten.

The same is true when a parent tricks a child into doing the right thing, or fitting in with the parent’s plans. Games and fun, cute as they may be in the hands of clever parents, have no place in testing or training the child’s heart.

The most mature and complete heart training is evident when there is every reason to disobey or to get away with doing wrong, and yet the person insists and persists in doing what is right.

Tough Choices Make for Strong Character

When parents rescue their children from tough choices they undermine the child’s character. Tough choices make for strong character.

The child who must stand by his post, while others get to do fun things, or taunt him, or who is otherwise suffering in order to be there, will develop much stronger character than the child who is given every opportunity to cheat on their character.

False compassion can prompt some parents to remove the tough choices and hard situations from their child’s life. Such emotion is called ‘false’ compassion because it is not true love at all. It masquerades as compassion but it harms the child, so it cannot be real love.

You are Allowed to Play Games

Please note that I am not saying every moment of your child’s life should be a tough moment with tough choices. There is plenty of room for fun, games and play. You are welcome to play ‘aeroplanes’ and fly the food into your child’s mouth or to make cleaning up the room into a fun race against the clock.

The tough choices are made at strategic moments and are then built upon. But once the tough moment is past it is time for celebration and enjoyment of life. The problem will come when your child is never challenged to learn and their heart is not trained.

Insist that they Learn

Parents, be diligent to ensure that each of your children has learned to obey you, to submit to authority and to fear God. You will need to remain attentive to their heart, through what they say and how that is backed up by the attitudes and actions.

Insist that they learn the lessons. Don’t give in, just because they are crying, or complaining. There is much more at stake than their temporary responses.

Marriage Counselling

When I give Marriage Counselling advice to couples or Marriage Counsellors there are a few basics which I always cover. Let me share them with you.

Marriage brings two different people together to establish a working relationship. When the marriage relationship breaks down, people feel hurt, betrayed, unloved, insecure, fearful, angry, bitter, or a range of other emotions. Those emotions not only challenge the marriage but they also tap issues from the background of the couple. Having a sense for this interplay empowers marriage counseling to be more effective.

The Individual

Marriage brings two individuals together for a mutually rewarding relationship. Who they each are, as individuals, affects what they can achieve as a couple. An unstable person will hardly be able to build a stable relationship. A fearful person will not be able to build a trusting relationship. An angry person will not be able to build a loving relationship.

So, before a marriage counselor becomes too distracted with the relationship issues they are wise to consider the individual qualities of the husband and wife. The weaknesses, attitudes, past experience and personal skills of each spouse will impede or assist the building of a strong relationship.

Individual Complexity

People are complex, so the range of personal issues they carry could be quite extensive. A wise counsellor seeks to uncover those things which are most relevant to the person’s ability to enter into and maintain a strong marriage relationship. Issues of trust, forgiveness, correct view of marriage and relationship, willingness to change, flexibility, selfishness and fear might be among the relevant matters to uncover.

People’s behaviour is often crafted by their reactions to past experience. For example, a person who has suffered injustice will tend to be very sensitive about justice issues. A person who has been denied loving acceptance may idolise the input of their spouse and feel let down when the spouse does not meet their idealised expectations. A person who has been spoiled may find it hard to give up their will to fit in with their spouse. I refer to this individual complexity as the “baggage” which the couple brings along on their honeymoon and into their marriage. Most often the person does not know their own baggage, since it seems normal to them. Their spouse is most likely completely oblivious to this baggage.

In time this baggage will trip up the marriage relationship. These hidden things will become obvious, over time, and they will prompt a new set of problems as each spouse reacts to the issues for better or for worse. The joke goes, “Love is blind, but Marriage is an Eye-Opener!” And that’s true. Relationship brings to light the hidden things. How skilled the couple are in dealing with those revelations will impact where their marriage goes.

Relationship Skills

Because marriage is a relationship it is vital that each person has good relationship skills. If one has good skills they can save the marriage from much trouble, but it is better if both work together than that one exploit the strengths of the other.

Relationship skills are not so much ‘skills’ as attitudes. Selfish attitudes are contrary to the spirit of relationship. Inflexibility makes demands on the other party in a relationship. Unforgiveness is a cruelty which violates relationship. Independence is contrary to relationship. Stubbornness is a road-block to relationship. Self assertiveness violates others. Pride is an offence to others. Self-determination is contrary to the spirit of cooperation.

People with the wrong attitudes have the wrong skills. Yet some people need to be trained in the practical expression of good relationship skills. Listening, caring, cooperating, sharing, committing time for each other, fitting in with the other’s plans, negotiating equitably, repenting, forgiving, adapting, standing firm on moral principles and being consistent are practices which may have to be learned and practiced by today’s dysfunctional society.

Proper Modelling

When a couple does not know what they are trying to build they will have less success than they could otherwise have. A clear understanding of the godly model for marriage, as I present in my books, Marriage Horizons and Mending Marriages, empowers a couple to build the most stable and effective kind of relationship. A good counsellor is attentive to the concept of marriage the couple are working with. If it is flawed then the couple needs to be instructed and directed toward the model of marriage that actually works and works most effectively.

God’s Grace

Humans are limited creatures and they don’t have the ability to save themselves. Even the best possible help from the most skilled Marriage Counsellor is not enough. Each person and each couple needs to have the grace of God released into their lives and relationships.

Good Marriage Counseling releases God’s grace into each individual spouse. That’s why Christian Marriage Counselling is so very important in the lives of couples who need help. Secular assistance can give good advice and sound wisdom, but it cannot release God’s divine touch into the lives of the couple.

If a couple cannot access Christian Marriage Counselling then they should find a Bible-believing church where they can get prayer and ministry to release God’s grace into their personal lives and into their marriage relationship.

Peddling Poison

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

Those are silly questions, aren’t they? Poisoning is something we read about in books, from olden days and far-off lands. We laugh at the idea.

“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, while the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!” (Poisoning featured several times in the 1956 Danny Kaye movie, The Court Jester).

It’s ludicrous to think you’ve ever been poisoned, isn’t it? Surely you’d know if someone tried to poison you, wouldn’t you? Maybe not, if you’ve not been attentive.

The most common poison people use on each other today, in homes, schools, offices, the media and society at large, has doubtless been tasted by everyone, young and old. I dare say there is hardly a person on the planet who has not been poisoned in some way or other in the past year. We have all drunk from the “vessel with the pestle” that has the “pellet with the poison”.

The toxic substance that is doing all the damage is easy to consume. It is often drunk down willingly and passed on to others with hardly a thought. While its effects on the body are minimal and not fatal, the effect on people’s lives, often for as long as they live, are deadly and pervasive. Whole villages, organisations and communities have been poisoned by this stuff.

What is it called? I was hoping you’d ask. See if you can work it out in the following example.

A new person enters one of your social circles. He or she may meet you at work, school, church, social functions or some other place. You find them friendly and likable. You enjoy their company and welcome them into your circle of associates. You may even plan to get to know them better and maybe invite them to social events you organise.

Then someone come along and whispers information to you that you were not previously aware of. You may find out, for example, that the newcomer is under suspicion for theft, or some other crime. Possibly you find out that they recently abandoned their family for nothing but selfish reasons. It may be that they support some horrible cause. I’m not talking about gossip or lies here. Let us assume that there is ample proof for the claims being made. Someone is simply passing on the information without malice or evil intent. However, whatever the information may be, it causes you to feel sore on the inside.

That sore feeling is the poison taking effect. You are hurt by the news.

So now, what happens next time you meet that person? How do you feel toward them now? Do you continue to welcome them into your circle or do you find it hard to be warm and open to them?

The universal experience is to feel a strong desire to cut that person off. The universal experience is that the budding friendship and the respect and warmth that existed is now poisoned off!

It’s based on feelings of offence that cause you to resent the other person. The poison is the resentment which is passed on, penetrating your heart and mind and killing off something in your attitudes and lifestyle. It’s a toxic poison that has killed off millions of things each year, right around the world.

Before you dismiss this as something of little consequence, let me show you how it works on the grander scale. The poison of resentment has powerful social impact.

At one time in our history it was normal for a woman to enjoy her home-maker role and her domestic responsibilities with the children. At that time women found fulfilment and delight in what is now considered an old-fashioned social order.

Then along came various voices which sowed resentment. Examples were touted of women who were oppressed by domesticity. The case was presented that every woman should be allowed to openly compete with her husband and completely reverse the domestic order if possible. In all the to and fro of the agitation and feminist action many offences were sown and resentments formed.

Now many women in domestic roles, looking after children and out of the workforce, feel resentment toward their situation. They feel as if they are being looked down on. They feel put-down and needing to justify their predicament. The domestic situation which is still able to be enjoyed by women is not enjoyed any more. The roles which their grandmothers found fulfilment in are now not suitable.

Why? Because a poison has been spread through society. It is the poison of ‘resentment’. Things that are noble and worthy have been made to seem offensive. Attitudes of resentment have been spawned toward those things.

Millions of people have been impacted by this kind of toxic attitude, causing the whole society to go through upheaval. While some people demand the right to make their own choice, they resent certain options and those who make them. Many women who intend to enjoy their domestic, stay-at-home role as a wife and mother come under the pressure of resentment from other women who feel duty-bound to rail on them

As another example, is it possible that your attitudes toward rich or successful people have been poisoned off in some way? Have you heard talk that the only way to become really rich is to take advantage of others? Do you tend to feel that super rich people are worthy of resentment?

And what about cultural resentments? Do you have toxic thoughts about people from America, Asia, third-world countries, jungle villages, extremist groups or high society? I guarantee that at least some of those attitudes are anchored in resentment which came from your reaction to information you heard about them. For example, there is a cultural hatred of Americans which is being propagated in many places today, with ugly consequences.

Whole cultures have been sprayed with poison, through popular media and social attitudes. Millions of possibilities lie dead on the ground, because resentment-based attitudes prevail, killing off any chance of change for the better.

Let me take you back to my starting questions. Have a look at them again and see if you might have a different answer now.

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

It’s time you became aware of the poison you are being fed. It’s time to do something about it. Don’t you think your life could be different if you could take the antidote to those toxins?

Hmmmmm…..