This month we are talking about starting over and how to make sure that this time we can do better than last time. We seem to learn from our mistakes in areas of life that don’t really matter like texting, games and hobbies, but we repeat our mistakes in the areas that matter the most, like our finances, jobs, health and relationships. Last week we learned that to start over and do things differently and better in any area of life we need we need to reject three myths we hold to but that don’t help us.
The first myth is that experience makes us wiser. Experience does not make us wiser, it makes us older. It is evaluated experience that makes us wiser. The second myth we need to reject is that since I know better – I will do better. Just knowing right from wrong doesn’t mean we have the discipline or desire to do what is right. We need to learn how to do things differently so we can do better. And the third myth we need to reject is thinking that time is against us. We often hear ourselves say, I’m not getting any younger, which leads us to act quickly and often unfaithfully or it causes us to do the same thing over and over again so we need to see that time is our friend and take the time to pause so we can evaluate and plan and listen.
Today we are going to look at the first of three steps that will help us start over well. To make sure we don’t keep repeating our mistakes we first need to own our mistakes, our failures and our bad history. We need to own it but owning our problems is not as easy and comfortable as blaming someone else for them. It is easier to blame our relationship issues on the dysfunction of others. It is easier to say that our boss or teacher has it out for us which is why we didn’t succeed or get a good grade. It is easier to blame the credit card companies for outrageous interest rates as the reason we are in so much debt instead of our own spending. It is easier to blame others and there is a reason why this is true – we are natural born blamers. Blaming others for our problems is simply part of the human race.
If we go back to the first two people we read about in the Bible, Adam and Eve, we find that when they faced a problem and had to start over they didn’t own up to their failure they blamed someone else. When God first created human beings and placed them in the center of creation, their only job was to be fruitful and multiply. They were to govern over the world and enjoy everything God had created. And God gave them just one rule, you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:17 By giving them this one rule, God is making himself the boss. God is the creator and He is reminding Adam and Eve that while all in this world are under their authority, they remain under God’s authority.
It didn’t take long for Adam and Eve to do the one thing they were told not to do and as soon as they did it, they knew they had done something wrong because they wanted to hide from each other and God. To this day, our first inclination when we do something wrong is to try and hide. We try to hide the problem or cover it up in some fashion. When confronted we often lie about it to hide the truth.
When my sister and I came home from school one day we both had forgotten our house key so we decided to get out the extension ladder, climb on the roof and get in through the open window in my parent’s bedroom. When we were done we put the ladder away and thought no one would know. But then my Dad came home and noticed that the ladder had been moved. He asked who got the ladder out and my sister and I both hid, behind a lie. We said we didn’t know and so my mom walked next door to ask the neighbors if they had seen anything. In that moment we knew we were busted. So I ran to my mom and told her the truth.
It is amazing that today we continue to hide when we fail or make a mistake – just like Adam and Eve. They felt shame and guilt because of their failure and they tried to hide from God and each other, but in his love, God didn’t allow Adam and Eve to hide. God went looking for them so they could start over but when he found them, this is what they said. Genesis 3:11-13.
So Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. Now here’s the thing – they were actually right in what they said. The serpent did suggest to Eve that they should eat from this tree and Eve did give some of the fruit to Adam, so technically they were right – it was someone else’s fault but that’s wasn’t the whole story. Eve also made her own decision to eat the fruit so she had her part to play in this unfolding story, and Adam made his own choices as well. But instead of owning their mistakes – they blamed someone else. We are the offspring of Adam and Eve, so just as we try to hide when we fail, we also try to blame others when we are confronted. It is natural for us to play the blame game when things fall apart, but we need to own our part in the failure or the failure will own us. We need to own our part of the story or we will repeat the story again and again.
Andy Stanley has said that we can’t blame our way into a better future. We can blame people for all our problems and move into the future and try to do better, but if we do we take those very same problems with us. Blame sets us up for a repeat performance of our failed past. So to start over differently and make sure this time is better than last time we need to own our part of the problem.
When we are willing to evaluate the situation and own our part of the problem we gain clarity. Owning our mistakes and our part of the difficult story of our lives humbles us so that we can make better decisions and actually do something different the next time. Jesus says, Blesssed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8. So purity leads to clarity. When we are honest about our own lives and humble ourselves and take ownership of our own story then we begin to see God’s hand at work in us and then we begin to see the healthy and right decisions we need to make so we can move forward.
So here is an exercise for us all to do today. Think about a situation where we may need to start over because of some disaster or failure. Draw a circle and call it the circle of blame.
This circle contains everything that contributed to the problem and while we want to say that everything in this circle is someone else’s problem, what we need to do is ask ourselves what percentage of this circle will we own?
It might be only a small piece of the pie that is ours to own, but owning our part will help us start over well.
Even when the situation we face has been caused by someone else’s behavior, dysfunction or failure, there is always a part we can own. For example, maybe we didn’t listen to God when something told us that things weren’t quite right. Or maybe we didn’t listen to our family or friends who tried to warn us that the decisions we were making weren’t good ones. Maybe we stayed too long in a relationship when we knew the behavior we were experiencing was harmful, or maybe we were afraid to confront the situation and honestly deal with the problem so we let if linger and grow. Maybe we were just too embarrassed to admit to ourselves or anyone else that there was a problem. Or maybe we just didn’t do our best at school or follow through the way we should have at work.
What part of the circle do we need to own? If we don’t own it, we can’t learn from it. If we just blame others, we aren’t able to grow and do things differently and make better choices and wiser decisions moving forward. So we have to own it, but this doesn’t mean we own all of it. For most of us, everything in this circle was not our fault so we can’t take responsibility for things that were not our issues – that can be just as destructive to our ability to do better the next time. When we say that it is all our fault, it covers up the real issues we need to deal with and it keeps us from focusing on what we need to do differently. Owning issues that aren’t ours will set us up to fail, so don’t own all of it, but honestly own your piece of it.
Owning our mistakes is just the first step, but it is an important one. Next week we will look at how to rethink these situations and then how to release them and forgive, but this week we need to start by owning our mistakes so next time will be better than last time. This week, let’s take the first step in making peace with the past by owning our piece of it.
1. Read the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-13.
Why do you think Adam blamed and Eve and Eve blamed the serpent? Why do we still like to blame others for our problems?
2. Think about a problem situation where you need to start over. In this “circle of blame” – what percentage do you need to own?
3. Be specific and identify how you have contributed to your need to start over?
4. In prayer, ask God for the clarity you need to take responsibility for your own problems so you can see how and where God wants to work in you. (See Matthew 5:8)