“That’s another fine mess you got me into Stanley!” was Hardy’s humorous quip & whip for his sidekick as he passed the buck of blame and denied responsibility for his mistakes. At School, “It wisnae (was not) me Miss!” was used to deflect attention from our transgressions. Eden’s denial of responsibility is continually echoed throughout humanity, stunting our growth and achievements.
In Eden, God asks Adam why he’s started hiding from Him. Rather than ‘fess up to his sin, Adam blames God and Eve, and Eve blames the snake, who ‘doesn’t have a leg to stand on’. McManus (in ‘The Way of The Warrior’) slates ‘denial of responsibility’ for what it is, a roadblock to growth and blessing. He observes that it’s often people with strong esteem and a high view of their abilities who are not ready or able to take criticism on the chin and accept responsibility for failure. We see it in interviews of athletes, players and managers after performances. Some own responsibility for defeat, and move on from it wiser, but others will find the weather, conditions, and other external circumstances to blame.
“A more grounded sense of self with high personal responsibility for failure postures a person to have higher resiliency and greater courage when facing necessary challenges.” (McManus)
To some extent, the ability to own up to mistakes and say “Sorry!” will determine how long you can credibly remain minister of a church, manager of a company, prime minister, president, leader of people, parent of children, reliable friend, etc.
One of the reasons our politics and country are in the mess we’re in is an unwillingness to share blame and take honest responsibility. The ‘tit for tat’ arguments are often tragic examples of denying a shared responsibility. And the same goes for all of us ready to quickly cast stones at our opposition or the whole political shebang.
At ‘Mosaic’, McManus’s large church, they had a massive breakdown at an event. Next day McManus gathered all team leaders to assess the failure. He asked a simple question: “Who is responsible for the particular area where the breakdown happened?” One by one everyone denied responsibility. McManus writes, “It was a strange and surreal moment to be sitting in a room full of executives where apparently not one of them was responsible for the principle item of the agenda. I paused for a moment, took a deep breath to think it over, and then gave everyone an assignment: “I want you to go find the person responsible for this so I can hire them, because they are the only person who should be in this room.”
Jesus told a parable of talents dished out to three servants, each talent something like £1 million. Over time the Master returns to find 2 servants talents doubled from 2 to 4 and 5 to 10. But the one talent given to the third servant has been buried and is given back without any interest, due to a denial of responsibility. Indeed, the cautious servant blames the Master, “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.”
Getting to intimately know the Gracious God of our Lord Jesus Christ, involves a realisation and appreciation that God truly loves us, wants the Best for us, and gifts us the resources and responsibility to make a positive difference in this world. And that ‘responsibility’ requires a readiness to own up when we botch it. “That’s another fine mess you got me into, Neil!”