Monday, April 12, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It!

"I didn't do it!"

"It wasn't me!"

"He made me do it!"

"It's not my fault!"

"The devil made me do it!"

Each of these statements has rung from the rooftops around our house at one time or another. My kids just don't like to accept blame for anything. They argue, they cry, they blame--anything to avoid owning up to something they've done.

They might blame the teacher, their friends, the weather, the referee, their siblings, and on occasion might even blame the devil himself. "Mom, Satan told me to do it and I just didn't tell him no." And, apparently, they are not alone. April 13th is Blame Someone Else Day.

Why is it so hard to take the blame for something we've done wrong? Why do we go to so much trouble to concoct credible stories, search out scapegoats, and cast blame on anyone or anything else? I think, along with everything else, it started in the Garden.

You remember the story, don't you? First guy Adam, his blushing bride Eve, and a clandestine meeting with a smarmy serpent. A forbidden piece of fruit passes the lips of not one, but both sin-free-up-to-that-time humans. Adam and Eve take a gander at each other and realize they are naked as a pair of jay-birds and unlike every day before, they are quite ashamed. And so the hiding begins.

 A short time later, God shows up for their evening walk and "can’t" find them. (Uh, in case you are a little slow, He knew right where they were. He just gave them a chance to come clean on their own.) Once the partially-clothed pair revealed that they had, indeed, tasted the fruit, the blaming begins.

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit and I ate it.”  (She made me do it!)

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (The devil made me do it!)

God’s first kids had an ownership problem when it came to possessing their blame. How can I expect my own kids to act any better? I’ve learned a couple things while watching my kids play the Blame Game. We all have a natural tendency to cast blame somewhere—anywhere—else. The trouble comes when we do what is natural versus doing what is right. I can help my kids take responsibility for their wrongs with a few well-chosen words. Here are the things I’ve learned to do:

1. Don’t assign blame myself. This means set a good example of owning my own sins and making them right and doing it in front of my kids, when appropriate. This also means not accusing them, even when I’m certain (as God was) who did it and what they did. This works for big people too.

2. Ask the right questions. Look at what God does when He meets up with the disobedient duo. He doesn’t start yelling, “You’re naked! Why are you running around sporting a fig leaf, for crying out loud?” Instead He calls them to Him and they spill the beans about the apple right away. Listen instead of accusing and your kids will tell you much more. Ask good questions and you do less work squeezing it out of them. Again, this works well with adults too.

3. God listens until each of them admits (in a round about, blame-filled way) their own part in the mess. Get your kids to admit what they did wrong. Don’t allow them to focus on blaming anyone else. Often I will say, when they begin to cast blame like a sprinkler squirting water, “Tell me only about your part.” And when it is our turn, let's remember to focus only on what part we played in the problem. Have you ever heard (or said!), "I'm sorry I yelled at you, but you just made me so mad."? That is blaming in a creative way, not an apology.

4. The last thing God does is to assign punishment. We want our kids to accept the responsibility for their part in any wrong-doing. I will say to my kids, “You embraced your choice, now embrace your consequence.” We all make mistakes, wrong choices, and bad decisions, but don’t let them go to waste. Accept the consequences, and when you can, learn any lessons so you are better prepared the next time to choose wisely. (Now so you will not think I have this all figured out or that my munchkins willing accept these lessons, let me tell you that in the middle of doling out consequences, I’ve had a child look at me and say, “This is not teaching me anything—it’s just making me mad!”)

Tomorrow, April 13, is Blame Someone Else Day, but I suggest you don’t allow your kids (or yourself) to celebrate it. Raise your cup of apple juice in a toast. Here’s to taking responsibility for our own choices and what the world would look like if we all did. Here, here!


  1. Here, here! I'm okay with kids doing it (hopefully they'll learn) but it makes me NUTS when adults do it! (I'm sorry, but it's not the school's fault that your child is failing when you don't make him do his homework!)

    And to really mess with people...accept blame with humility. I stopped making excuses a long time ago and have found such favor with my editors. Owning up takes you a long way.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I agree, Karin. What amazes me is how innate it is! But our culture just reinforces it straight from the top down.

    Let it stop with us!