All those who have worked with children or who have children will at some point find themselves acting as referees. Often, when an adult intervenes in a conflict, one child will point to the other and assert, “He made me do it!”
The Blame Game
From an early age, we are quick to blame others for our emotions, our responses, and even our actions. It’s a reaction inexorably linked to our fallen nature, originating with our first parents, who, when God confronted them with their sin, played the first round of the blame game. “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ . . . The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’ ” (Gen. 3:12–13).
As adults, we may not verbalize blame in the same way children do, but we still divert guilt onto others. We are slow to recognize our own sin in our interactions with others. Rather than confess and repent, we prefer to spread the responsibility around: “I know I said the wrong thing, but so did you.” We are quick to notice the speck in another’s eye but fail to recognize the log in our own (Matt. 7:4).
We also place the blame for our emotions on others. When we feel intense emotions such as anger or worry, we look to others as their source. “I wouldn’t feel so angry if he wouldn’t _______.” “I wouldn’t be so worried if my spouse wouldn’t _______.”
As believers, we need to take responsibility for our own hearts in our relationships with others. Rather than play the blame game, we need to guard our own hearts against sin.
The Heart Of Man
Proverbs 4 cautions us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). The Bible uses the word “heart” to refer to the center of oneself. It’s the core of who we are. The heart encompasses our desires, thoughts, emotions, personality, and motives. It’s what drives us. That’s why Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21–22).
It’s not what is outside us that makes us sin; rather, our sinful responses and actions come from within us. They originate with our own desires and longings. As James 4:1 tells us: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” This means that other people can’t make us feel, say, or do anything. We act according to what is in our hearts.