Wednesday, March 14, 2012


One of the things that can be really refreshing in a relationship is when both come to the place that neither are willing or wanting to any longer play the "blame game." [Henceforth referred to as the BG.] You know what the BG is don't you? It's where what I feel or do is your fault. You can pretty well know if someone is playing this game because it's revealed in such language as [you fill in the blanks] "I did_____ because you______," or "if you hadn't_____, I wouldn't feel______," or "you make me feel______," or "if you had only______, I wouldn't have to_____."

I have to confess that this is being written by a master blamer. I learned it early as a child and practiced it often as an adult until I got into a relationship with a real person for life. [It's called marriage] It was THEN that I discovered, when called on such a practice by her opting out of the game, that life became just too miserable trying to play the BG solo, so I opted out of it too. That opting out for both of us began about twenty-five years ago [remember we've been married fifty-two years] and it's still the path we choose to walk together.

Now it is true that people are even different in playing the BG. I was a blame giver and she was a blame taker. I used the BG to my advantage in the control issues I had personally and she, by her own confession, used it for her false image of biblical submission. Both were wrong and unbiblical as well as unhealthy. But I digress.

This BG started in the garden of Eden as we're all aware. After the fall, upon being confronted about what went wrong by the One that really matters, Adam said, "It's this woman you gave me." Thus the door was opened in his mind for a shifting of responsibility for his thoughts, feelings and actions that might have been inappropriate or unhealthy, not to mention sinful. That mind-set prevails today.

Be aware that while Adam said it's this "woman's fault," the emphasis ultimately was on "that YOU gave me." So if it wasn't her fault he was in the pickle he was in it was surely God's because He had messed up so badly in what He had allowed to come about. That's the flip side of "The devil made me do it" argument. Boy that's classic. Been there done that... myself.

A principle I've learned [from reading Larry Crabb] is that A never causes C...[Read that again..slowly.] A is the event, situation, person or happening and C is my feeling or choice made after the happening or event. [Read that again slowly also.] I always tried to believe and convince others that A CAUSED MY C. ["Because you...I."] The more lousy my feelings or actions [C] the more obvious, at least to me, that the A was to blame and the A is YOU. [Certainly someone/something other than me caused what's wrong in me...right?]

One day I discovered that A does not cause C at all. B causes C. B is my thinking about A. [Whether that A is a person, situation or event. Now it was clear to me that C is my feeling or action, but what wasn't as clear was that my C was actually the result of my B. It is my B that is the culprit when faced with the lousiness of my C. Get that down. [Could it be this is what is meant by "as a person thinketh, so is he?"]

This is the simple ABCs of the blame game. How you THINK about a situation or event or person saying something is the cause of what you feel or do, not what is done or said. 

An illustration, used with permission, might help here.Years ago, as this was fleshing out to reality in me personally, Mary and I were apologizing to our older three kids for the sorry parenting job we had done with them. Some of our parenting was good but a lot was bad. [I will speak only for myself from this point on and Mary can speak for herself, as she does extremely well in these matters, hence the first person singular from this point forward.]

For example, I tried to make them trophies of my ministry early on instead of trophies of His Grace and used angry control to do them. [Talk about an oxymoron...trophies of grace made with anger and control. Go figure.] Now that's BAD, really BAD. They've forgiven me, but the process was not easy.  I'm just glad all four of our children were and are that kind of gracious forgiving people.

I digress here with cause-----The family dynamic that went into working through the baggage we all carried as a family was as painful as any process you can imagine. It took MANY family times that often went into the wee hours of the morning long after the little kids, our grandchildren, were in bed. Those times were worth the price but I never want to minimize the depth of pain and difficulty involved for all of us.

Mary and I were surprised when one day a friend who is a medical doctor said to us when told of our times of asking forgiveness, "Oh, you guys are part of that rare 2% [he could have said 5% I don't remember the exact small number he used] of parents who are willing to say I'm sorry." I don't know where he got his facts or figures but I think he's right about the rarity of it. It hurts too much for some families to go there.------Now back to the illustration.

Late one evening, after a family time much as just described, Cherri, our oldest, was talking to me and made a comment to the effect that my admission helped her see the reason for some of her behavior that had been reactionary to me as a parent. I said to her "Wait babe, I did you wrong and thank you for forgiving me, but your behavior is the consequence of what you've thought about what was done to you. I won't take responsibility for your behavior...that's yours." She says it was that exchange that set her free to genuinely be on the road of Grace living. I say her change came about because she's the kind of girl who is courageous enough to take responsibility for her thoughts and actions instead of blaming an obviously faulty father or any other faulty family member.

It has to be obvious that if I do not take responsibility for the bad choices she made, I can not, with legitimacy, take credit for the good ones either. She is the heroine here. She is not a victim but a victor in life because of refusing to play the blame game. Her mind became ultimately occupied with who the REAL Father is and what He's like and that mind-set empowered her choices and actions and set her free to make good choices and have good feelings instead of the negative ones she had been having. [The B of this ABC stuff. It's called living by faith.] When this becomes the environment of an entire family it truly CAN become what Jeff VanVonderen calls "A family where Grace is in place." That's the journey the our family is on. We haven't arrived yet, but we're traveling down that road.

Remember we are ultimately speaking here of relationship skills that we need to learn that grow out of the truth we know about who we are in Him and to Him all because of the person and work of Christ and what He's done on our behalf. We forgive BECAUSE we are already forgiven ourselves. We love BECAUSE we are already loved ourselves. We extend mercy BECAUSE we already have mercy extended to us. We are FREE to act, choose, do BECAUSE we are accepted.

So...when I feel terrible, or choose badly or act like a jerk, I can honestly see it and not blame any one else, and deal with my responsibility for it. My person hood is NOT dependent on my performance but His and He has accomplished it all. I now live in the Grace of it and extend that Grace to others on the journey with me.

A final practical, simple illustration of this could be the many motorcycle trips of up to twelve days taken with my brother-in-law, Fred Cherry. Two different kind of guys together a long time on their bikes, at times cranky, short-fused, tired, as well as hungry and thirsty, mixed in with the good. How do we do it? Well, if you don't play the blame game, and we don't, there is no "taking it out on the other one." Neither of us will permit that. Too much respect to permit that. But we don't have our person hood tied to our performance either. So we can be honest about the lousy conditions and our own feelings, without blame, and laugh about the good conditions with joy and really enjoy the trip to the fullest regardless.

By the way, marriage is something of a forever motorcycle trip without the motorcycle. Just two people on a journey together and it sure helps to have leaned some of this stuff....together.

Life is good...difficult on occasion...but when the difficult does happen it's all her fault....if she would just.... :)

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Brother,I'm sure you've had a spy cam on my life.

I grew up thinking the blame game was the way life was lived.

We entered marriage thinking the same, as most of the couples I ever counseled did. Sad to think we didn't wake up for twenty of our fifty-one years together.

What a waste!

Even the church business meetings had quite a bit of the blame game in them, especially in the little post-mortems afterwards.

Such a simple statement, filled with a mountain of truth: "How you THINK about a situation or event or person saying something is the cause of what you feel or do, not what is done or said."

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I'm aware that this kind of post won't speak to some people, but healthy relationship building skills are learned I believe and not automatically known. This is one building block in Mary and my marriage relationship that is of major significance for the two of us.

It sounds like it might speak to you and yours too. Why am I not surprised!! We're going to have to check our roots for close family ties for sure. We're too much alike. LOL

Rex Ray said...


Ah! The blame game! “If you don’t first succeed; try try again.”

I’m glad you pointed out that after blaming Eve, Adam tried blaming God.

The news today, told of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is to start serving his 14 years in prison for 17 verdicts of corruption nine months ago.

To a crowd of supporters outside his Chicago home, the closest he got to saying he’d done wrong was: “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but this is the law and we follow the law.” HUH?

I believe the way I act came mostly from my father…I wonder sometimes if about half of it was ‘what not to do’. :)

He believed in “Never say you’re sorry. Your friends don’t need it, and your enemies won’t believe it.” (That’s one of ‘what not to do.)

I dreamed last night I was in a group that was supervising hundreds of workers on a building project. I saw my father with a large paint brush. (He always could paint fast and I guess I never liked painting as my arms got so tired when we were small kids.) I thought, ‘It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen him, he’s really going to be surprised to see me.’

Heaven is closer and dearer all the time.

Paul, I like the way you explained the “ABC” concept.

Because of “B”, Jesus was not angry about Calvary.

Paul Burleson said...


This..".Because of “B”, Jesus was not angry about Calvary." the absolute BEST illustration of the point trying to be made by the post that I've seen. [That's one of those "Wish I'd thought of that" kind of things.]


Bob Cleveland said...

I had such a low self-image, and was so shy, as a child, that it never occurred to me to blame others when things went wrong. I honestly figured it was all my fault.

Then, shortly after I got married, I decided that there wasn't anybody out there "good enough" to make me mad. That was the wrong approach, but it shortly morphed into the realization that I really was responsible for what I do, how I feel, how I react, etc. As I grew as a believer, the Holy Spirit did wonders with that, in me.

Then, 30 years working for and then with the best boss I ever had, pretty well iced the cake for me, personally.