“The Blame Game,” column for Oct. 27, 2015

Things happen for a reason. Sometimes it’s your fault. Other times, it’s mine. OK, usually, it’s mine. But often, the real reason is no reason at all.

As a child, whenever I broke something _ a dish, a rule, or maybe my brother’s leg _ I would instantly yell, “Accident! Accident! I’m sorry!” It was my only hope to assert my innocence and avoid bodily harm or maybe death.

It never worked. In my mother’s world, nothing was accidental. She blamed me, my brothers, our stepfather, her mother or God and all His angels. But she never blamed herself. At least not outwardly. Inwardly, she always had a knock-down, drag-out fight going on, so guilt must have thrown a few punches. I’ll never know for sure. Mothers and daughters spend a lifetime trying to figure each other out. In the end, we just roll our eyes and say, oh, well, I love you.

If she ever suffered guilt, my mother, God bless her, never seemed to find the grace to say the magic words, “I’m sorry.” She felt them, I’m certain, but just didn’t say them. So I learned to say them for her.

I’ve been sorry all my life. It may sound a bit unhinged, but there it is. I’ve got no one to blame for it but myself. It’s nobody’s fault but my own. If you step on my toe? I’ll say I’m sorry I got in your way. If you’re late picking me up and leave me stranded in the rain? I’ll say it’s not your fault, I should’ve taken a cab and an umbrella. If you confess you’re having an affair with your best friend’s husband? I’ll insist I’ve done something just as bad (not like that, of course, but sin, after all, is sin) and resist the urge to ask if I’m your best friend. No matter how sorry you say you are, I will be sorrier.

When we own up to our misdeeds (not to mention those of everyone else on the planet) several things happen.

First, it ends the senseless argument of who’s to blame.

Two, it takes some of the sting out of the one who’s been stung. Not all of it, maybe, but some.

Finally, best of all, it opens the door to grace. Forgiveness blooms in the heart of the one who’s wronged, but it’s planted by the one who says, “I’m sorry.”

My children taught me a lot about forgiveness. No matter what mistakes I made, whatever needless pain I caused, if I said that I was sorry and asked them to forgive me, they did. I’m still learning things from them, and from their children. One thing they’re teaching me is this: Everything is not my fault. Some things, yes, but not all.

Recently, I lost my cell phone. I spent all day searching for it, ripping apart my purse, my car, my house, my hair. No sign of it anywhere. Soon the beating began. How could I be so careless, so feeble-minded, so dumb? Finally, I called my husband at work.

“I lost my phone,” I said, “and I feel like such an idiot.”

“I’ll call it,” he said. Then he laughed. “Oh, wait. I’ve got it. Guess I, uh, picked it up by mistake this morning.”

For a moment, I had visions of smothering him in his sleep. But he was sorry, sort of. So I forgave him. It wasn’t his fault. And for once, it wasn’t mine.

I told you all that to say this: Life is short. We waste precious time casting blame for things that are no one’s fault, while we long to forgive and be forgiven.

If you need to say you’re sorry, say it quick. If you need to forgive, do it now. Don’t beat yourself up, or anyone, for things that can’t be helped. Let go of old hurts. Don’t let them keep hurting you.

The ancient poet Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

Keep the scar, welcome the Light, but lose the pain.

If you need someone to blame? Blame me.

I promise I’ll be sorry.

Comments

  1. Dale says:

    My story is very similar to Cynthia’s. Don’t remember much affection at home growing up. Especially from my mom. I was an adult before I remember hearing my dad say he loved although I am sure he did. I learned from my husband’s family as well about loyalty and expressing yourself because you may not get another opportunity to do so. In January we lost two very dear friends (a couple) with 11 days of each other. We were planning to go see them in February. Thankfully we had talked to both of them over the holidays and told them how much we loved them and valued their friendship.

  2. cynthia says:

    Me, too, Judi. I have no doubt that my mother loved me but she never said it. I attribute it to her upbringing that was loving but not openly demonstrative. Can’t remember ever having a hug either. When I met my husband and his family, I was hugged all the time. And, we are very demonstrative and openly verbal about our feelings with our kids and grandkids. So much better to have that warm touch.

  3. sylvia w. taylor says:

    YES, THIS COLUMN FIT MANY OF US, WHO HAD TO BE THE ONE TO APOLOGIZE! MY DAD TAUGHT US THAT ‘100 YEARS FROM NOW, IT WON’T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE”, WHICH HAS HELPED ME A LOT OVER MY LIFETIME! IN MANY WAYS, IT IS SAD THAT SOME FOLKS THINK THEY ARE PERFECT, AND HAVE TO MAINTAIN THAT STATUS, EVEN TO HIDING PARTS OF THEIR LIFE THAT FAMILY MEMBERS WOULD BE SHOCKED TO LEARN. HOWEVER, THE LORD ABOVE CAN FORGIVE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US, THUS, WE NEED TO CONFESS WHATEVER IS GOING TO AFFECT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM, THAT IS MOST IMPORTANT.

  4. Amos White says:

    I am not sorry to have read this great column. Thanks.

  5. Vanessa L says:

    I’m convinced we’re sisters, separated at birth. Or at least cousins. Well, maybe we aren’t all that much alike. I think you’re just that girl we can all “relate” to (shameless pun intended). Thanks for another funny, heartwarming column!

  6. Judi says:

    Hi, Sharon! As always, I loved this column! My mother was like your mother, never saying sorry. Even if I could prove she was wrong, she still would not admit it or say she was sorry. She also never told me she loved me…I know she did, because of things she did for me. Like take some of her grocery money to buy me a new pair of shoes for the school program. She was a wonderful seamstress, and I still remember the beautiful turquoise satin dress she made for me. I vowed that when I had children, I would let them know I loved them by verbally telling them “I LOVE YOU!” We have three children, current ages 48, 46 and almost 44. They know that we both love them and “Love you!” is verbalized quite often, when finishing a phone/text conversation. Also, hugs are always given (a few kisses too) along with the “Love you!” Our grandchildren also give hugs and we share “Love you!” The chain has been broken…thank you, Lord. Thanks for giving me the chance to share this with you!

Speak Your Mind

*