“He made me do it!” “It’s not my fault!” “I didn’t have a choice!” Blaming others when bad things happen – especially things that can get one in trouble – is a game that is often learned in childhood. Mind you, it’s not a game that’s taught, like Monopoly, but is learned either by observing others or by accident. If not addressed early, it can become a habit, that when bad enough can cause a separation from God.
The problem with playing the blame game is that it encourages lying and can eventually help the blame shifter develop a victim mindset. It can also lead to blame shifters refusing to repent – because in their minds, no sin is ever their fault. Even if the issue in question is fully the fault of another person, choosing to focus on blaming instead of working to correct the issue can cause the blame shifter to get stuck – never forgiving or moving on. Over time, a victim mindset can leave people stuck in an incident from years past, angry, bitter and any spiritual, emotional or other types of growth hampered because of the amount of time and effort spent ruminating on the past.
So how can you help your children learn to accept responsibility for whatever their part was in a negative situation, while also forgiving those who may have shared the blame (or even been truly totally to blame)? There is a family devotional you can do to launch periodic discussions about blaming others.
Gather your children and tell them the story of King Saul playing the blame game, found in 1 Samuel 13. King Saul wanted to celebrate his army’s victory over the enemy. As part of the celebration, he actually wanted to do something good – thank God with a sacrifice. The Law, however, stated that only a priest like Samuel could actually perform the sacrifice. So Saul waited for Samuel to appear.
Days went by with no sign of Samuel. Finally, King Saul got tired of waiting and did the sacrifice himself. Literally, just as he finished the sacrifice, Samuel finally arrived. Samuel was furious that King Saul had so blatantly broken God’s Law about sacrificing. When he confronted Saul, what did the king do? Blamed everyone else of course!
Now King Saul was not the first, nor the last person to try and blame others for their poor choices or sins. Adam and Eve were the first and people will probably still be trying to blame others for their poor choices until Jesus returns. Notice though how severe the punishment was for Saul’s disobedience. The Kingdom would not be ruled by his family in the future, but by another family. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but one cannot help but wonder if things would have ended differently if King Saul had at least accepted full blame for his sin and repented.
Point out to your children the probable lie in King Saul’s blame game attempt. Saul was king – a king who had successfully led them to victory. Why wouldn’t they wait for Samuel if Saul asked (or told) them to do so? Also note that although it might look like Saul took some responsibility for what happened, notice how it is phrased – “I felt compelled to do so”. Point out that what Saul said is very similar to when we say somebody “made us” do something. Explain that in any situation, we have a choice. We might not like the possible consequences of either option, but there is always a godly option. Even, if like many first century Christians, we find that making the choice to obey God ends up in a bad consequence (prison or death in their case), God still wants us to choose to obey Him.
Explain to your children that the problem with playing the blame game is that we can become so good at it that we don’t even realize we are playing it after awhile. Blaming others for everything bad that happens can become a really bad habit. It can become so bad that we don’t believe we need to be a Christian or repent of our sins, because we are never responsible for making sinful choices.
The first step in breaking the blame game habit is the ability to recognize how easily and often we blame others instead of taking responsibility or working to find solutions. Give each of your children a piece of paper or a little notebook. Explain that for the next week every time they catch someone or themselves trying to blame others instead of taking responsibility for their part of the problem or focusing on blaming someone instead of working to find a solution, they should pay close attention. For each incident, they should record enough information so they can discuss what happened at the end of the week. They can use examples from streaming content, books, newspapers and of course real life. (As the parent, try to capture every example of them or you and your spouse blaming others for something.)
You may want to kick off the exercise by watching a kid’s movie or show that depicts people trying to play the blame game. Help your children identify the incidents as they happen while you watch it together. After it’s finished, discuss any consequences that happened because of characters trying to shift blame (Be sure to point out any unrealistic scenarios that may have also occurred.) This is especially important for younger children who may have a difficult time understanding the concepts you are teaching.
At the end of the week, discuss what everyone observed. Did the exercise make you more aware of how often the blame game is played in our world? Did it make you start to notice how playing the game hurts the blame shifter in the long run? What could people have done differently in some of those situations? How does the blame game relate to God’s commands for us to repent of our sins? Have fun with it, but help them see how blaming others will only hurt them in the long run. (Note: Rare children may overthink this and begin doing the opposite – blaming themselves for things that were not their fault. Work with them to understand the godly balance needed. Taking the blame unnecessarily for others is often not in the other person’s best interest either – as they may need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions, too.)