Question: "How can I learn to stop blaming others for my problems?"
Answer: For many people, blame is a favorite game when something goes wrong. Living as broken people in a broken world, we can easily find someone or something to blame when we are hurt. Sometimes it is true that someone else so violated our lives that the fault is his alone. When that happens, we have steps to take to right the wrong (Matthew 18:15–17). But if we habitually blame others for our problems instead of taking responsibility for the part we may have played, blame can become a way of life.
The following are some steps we can take to stop blaming others for everything that goes wrong:
1. Fully acknowledge the damage that was done. It may seem odd to begin a change by focusing on the problem, but that is the best way to process it so that we don’t have to carry it around anymore. Fully recognizing the hurt and injustice we experienced prepares our hearts to forgive and move on. Our hearts know a wrong was committed, and in pretending the wrong was less than it was, we do ourselves no favors. Recognizing the problem, grieving the loss when appropriate, and then committing to forgive the offender are important in changing the blame game.
2. Recognize the pride that lurks behind the blame game. Prideful hearts don’t want to admit wrong. It’s easy to see where someone else is wrong, but it’s not so enjoyable to admit our own fault. It helps to ask ourselves, “Did I contribute to this problem in any way?” We can usually find something we could have done better. Instead of focusing on what the offender did, we can redirect our focus to our response. Yes, that person was wrong, but did I respond the way God wants me to? Did I make the situation better or worse? When we recognize pride, we should confess it as sin and humble ourselves before God and before the other person (1 John 1:9; 1 Peter 5:6).
3. Lower lofty expectations. We cause ourselves much grief when we carry too high expectations for ourselves and others. Often those expectations are never communicated, but they are at the root of our bitterness and reflexive blaming of others. We think, “They should have done this,” or “They should not have done that.” When the word should enters our thoughts about other people’s actions, we have set the scene to start blaming them. Should implies an expectation that is going unmet. Surrendering our expectations to God and trusting that He will give us what we need helps calm us when we feel slighted or ignored.
4. Surrender rights to God. Human beings are rights-fighters. If we made a list of our assumed rights, we would probably be shocked. Common on most people’s lists are the right to be treated fairly; the right to never be offended; and the right to be respected, loved, or included. The problem is that God did not give us those rights; we conscripted them for ourselves. Blaming others for our problems often arises from a perceived rights violation. The fight to maintain bogus rights keeps us in emotional turmoil.
If we find ourselves blaming others a lot, it may help to make a list of personal rights we feel are being violated. Then, as an act of surrender, offer that list to God. Tell Him that you give up these rights, and if He thinks you need to be validated, respected, or included by others, He will see to it. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Giving our rights to God is one way we humble ourselves. He then lifts us up in ways that have nothing to do with pride or rights-fighting.
5. Turn blame into prayer. When we feel someone else has wronged us, we can tell God about it. The psalms are filled with expressions of the pain, hurt, and betrayal felt by the writers. But they didn’t stop with expressing the pain. After we pour out our pain in prayer, we can quiet our hearts and humbly ask the Lord for direction. Rather than blaming others, we can begin praying for them. If they were wrong, they need the healing and restoration of the Lord. Pray that God will change their hearts, convict them of their sin, and restore them to Himself. Every time Satan tempts us to grow bitter, we can use the temptation as a reminder to pray for the person who wronged us.
6. Repent of the entitlement attitude. Blamers typically have an attitude of entitlement they are unaware of. Similar to rights-fighters, entitled people believe they are owed something. We may have an entitlement problem if our thoughts sound something like this:
• “It’s his fault I didn’t get that job.”
• “My mom knew I wanted to host the dinner, but she hosted it to spite me.”
• “I’m not married because all guys are scum.”
• “I don’t have a girlfriend because women are shallow and greedy.”
• “Everyone else is further ahead than I am because they’ve had it easier than I have.”
Ridding ourselves of entitlement attitudes is like pulling thistles out by the roots. It’s difficult, but, once the attitude is gone, it can’t grow any more thorns. Those who blame others often blame God indirectly for bequeathing them an inferior life. Such blame of God must be confessed as well. We must admit that God owes us nothing. James 1:7 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. If we can breathe; if we can work, love, play, laugh, and experience enjoyment, then we are greatly blessed. God did not owe us any of that, but, because He is good, He gave us many things to enjoy. We are commanded to be thankful in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We cannot be thankful if we feel entitled to more.
7. Find the good in the situation. We tend to blame others when our life situation is not as we wish it to be. However, God says that He is ultimately in charge and will use everything for our good if we trust and love Him (Romans 8:28). You didn’t get that job you wanted? Perhaps you can thank God that He protected you from a job that was not right for you. You couldn’t finish college? Perhaps you can thank God for showing you that college was not the path for you. When we turn misfortune into an opportunity to give thanks, we rob our enemy, Satan, of a weapon he wants to use against us.
Taking personal responsibility for our lives and refusing to blame others for our problems is a mark of maturity. Blaming others for our problems only keeps us mired in immaturity. We also forfeit opportunities to learn from our mistakes, develop perseverance, and work in harmony with God to produce the character of Jesus in our lives (see Galatians 5:22–23).