Fault is a word that makes its way into our home conversations almost weekly. Let me explain why. My husband had a private mental health practice for over thirty years after having been a child welfare worker for the state for many years. When good therapy is done with clients, sooner or later during the client/therapist relationship, blame is placed upon the therapist. It is natural for people to want to place blame on someone else before actually conceding self-blame. One evening long ago, I was in an adjacent office to where my husband was meeting late with a couple. The loud outburst of anger thrust upon my husband gave me chills. After the appointment, I asked Jim how he was able to stand the barrage of angry words. “Oh, that was nothing,” he calmly answered. “In fact, that was a very good and successful therapy session!”
I do not know how my husband withstood such ordeals for over thirty years. I admire him very much. We are constantly approached by former clients who want to thank him for how he helped them in the past. That’s the good side. Now, on the bad side of this situation: I have to choose my words carefully when we have a discussion because he always counters with, “I knew it was going to be my fault!” Now honestly, I had no such thoughts. Blame or fault finding was not the purpose or intent of my words. Yet, his response is often the same. So, we joke now: “This WAS his fault…he stopped breathing and died!” are words I will have engraved upon his tombstone!
I try to help students see that being honest is very important…especially when they are caught in the wrong. Instead of owning the situation, the first words out of a guilty child’s mouth is either, “He did it too,” or “It was his fault.” It seems to be nearly impossible to accept blame and admit fault. The classic example would be God’s confrontation of Adam for eating the forbidden fruit. What did Adam answer? “It was the woman you gave to me who gave it to me to eat.” And Eve, of course, said, “It was the serpent who deceived me!” There is the first case of playing the blame game.
What I want to help students see is that I really don’t care that much about who is at fault in a situation. I care about only two things: realize that a situation which causes a break in our right relationship has occurred; and, it is very important that truth is told so future trust may be maintained. My own children grew up with that old adage used by parents over time, “It takes two to make a quarrel. So, you are both guilty!”
Today, I am bewildered as are most Americans, with the fault-finding and blame game being carried out by our Congress which has resulted in the shutdown of our government. Our military families at Ft. Sill and those connected with government jobs are caught in chaos. Duty assignments are being left hanging in mid-air since no one can make a decision while the government is shutdown. I ask what kind of example is this for adults and leadership to set for our children? Shame on them all!
On another level, as a rock and mineral collector and science teacher, the word “fault” brings to my mind the cracks in the earth’s surface which can be the source of earthquakes. Since Oklahoma now leads the nation in the number of recorded earthquakes due to fracking, I am acutely aware of this word “fault.” I have seen the devastation left after a quake. It is not a pretty sight. Often, lives are ruined. Now, if we could just remember this picture of an actual earthquake, maybe we could make a juxtaposition and remind ourselves that trying to place fault or blame can be hazardous to our mental health. It would be helpful for us all to try to work together to fix a problem rather than spend wasted time trying to fix blame. With that last thought, I am reminded that God allowed Jesus to suffer on the cross in my place to forgive my wrongs. He did not need to try to call out my “fault.” Just seeing the perfect life given in love for me causes my own heart to condemn me enough.