MOVING FORWARD IN FAITH #4
(WHO’S TO BLAME?)
In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown writes, “Only once we discern what is absolutely essential and eliminate everything else can we make our highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”1 Let’s heed his words as we continue Moving Forward in Faith. In the heartache of this pandemic, the turmoil of economic-job losses, and the violent turbulence in politics, our world desperately needs us to make all the good differences we can – but we cannot do it all.
What are the essential things we might do? Perhaps we can first eliminate the time we may spend placing blame on others. Of course, placing blame is necessary; people who cause harm or commit illegal acts must be held responsible and culpable. Justice needs to be served. Corrections must be made. Consequences must be determined. But there are qualified people whose vocation includes doing those very things.
When we desperately want to make sense of our confusion, assign responsibility for fixing the mess, and resolve all that is wrong as quickly as possible, blaming others becomes a way to remove the burden from ourselves. We relieve ourselves of any responsibility to remedy the situation by critically assigning fault to others. We have seen numerous articles, posts, and interviews in which one person or group is blaming another, or no one, or even everyone. Rarely do we hear, “This is my fault, I am sorry, and I will make amends.” (I find this difficult to do myself!)
But, back to what is essential for us as people of faith… when we consider what is faithful and essential for us to do, what might be the more fruitful action? What might be the more loving action? What is an essential and faithful responsibility we might take on?
When an issue is angering or upsetting us, the more fruitful actions would include writing letters to our political leaders, volunteering or funding agencies that work to help with the problem, and sharing our concerns about the issues with others – providing information, raising awareness, inviting others to help – more than blaming or disparaging people.
When we are grieved or hurt by the troubles impacting us, the more loving actions might be to encourage others who are feeling the same way, to help brighten spirits with words of affirmation or hope, and to foster a spirit of forgiveness for those who have been found responsible and held accountable.
Finally, as we think about our own responsibility in making the world a better place, contemplative Franciscan Richard Rohr says, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”2 What we wish to see in the world, we can emulate in ourselves. We can model a better way, the way of love and hope and peace and joy. If we wish for an end to both greed and poverty, we can live more generously. If we wish for more peace and unity, we can model greater acceptance and kindness. If we hope for an end to the pandemic, we can follow the medical guidelines, protect one another, and get vaccinated. Our faithful and essential responsibility could be to live and model what we hope our world will become, to let our lives be a visible example of a better way, while we refrain from criticizing or blaming those who don’t.
“Let the improvement of yourself keep you so busy that you have no time to criticize others.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Ephesians 4:29-32 (NRSV)
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1McKeown, Greg, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. New York: Currency, 2020.
2Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
Bible verses found at BibleGateway.com