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The Blame Game

This week, two high-profile suicides made the news. In both cases, the deceased person's many fans have commented publicly about the tragedy of a life which ended too soon. There's no argument here: it is nothing short of tragic.

Sadly, too many of us have chosen to express our sadness about the self-inflicted death of a famous person by looking for someone outside of that person to blame. Depression, mental illness, opioids, Donald Trump, past abuse, financial difficulties, and marital trouble  are among the many reasons offered up for why someone has chosen to take their own life.

As someone who's never been inside anyone's head but my own, I wouldn't dare to argue for or against the many possible reasons that have been suggested. But I will say this: to some extent, there is room for each person to be responsible for his actions.

As strange as it might seem, I see a connection between the willingness to blame outside reasons for a person's actions and the over-the-top divisiveness that has replaced decent political discourse.  Because so many of us have embraced the us-vs-them mentality in recent years, there is a human tendency to try to look for someone or something to blame for every bad thing. Not just for suicides, but for pretty much any actions committed by someone we love or admire. We don't mind expending extra effort to come up with a 3rd party to blame in order to ease the burden of the one who actually committed the act.

My observation is that it's easiest to blame that which we hate. If I am a Democrat, I will find a way to blame Donald Trump or Paul Ryan or maybe even Franklin Graham. If I'm an evangelical Christian, perhaps I'll find it easy to believe that Islamists are behind various maladies. If I'm a young black man, perhaps I'll blame the police, and if I'm a social justice warrior, I'll find that white privilege is at fault. If I'm a conservative, then I find it easy to believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton might have engaged in human trafficking via a pizza restaurant.  The ridiculous becomes plausible when the target of the accusation is someone we oppose.

This phenomenon is nothing new. A couple thousand years ago, this happened:

"When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Him fiercely and to besiege Him with questions, waiting to catch Him in something He might say." (Luke 11:53-54)

Having already decided to be anti-Jesus, they sent someone to listen to Jesus, for the sole purpose of catching Him saying something they could twist to present Him in the worst possible light. How sad. And how currently common.

Don't misread me: I'm not saying that bad things don't happen because of the actions or influence of others. I am simply observing that many, probably most of us, are predisposed to accept what we hear when something we hate might possibly be at fault.

We must resist this urge.

Again, this piece isn't just about politics, or suicide. This is about our refusal to take blame for our actions which are our choice. When I recently discussed someone talking about his sexual sin, he used this kind of reasoning: it's not my fault; it's just how I am. Perhaps there's a little too much acceptance of suicide these days, and some of that is rooted in the idea that the decedent couldn't help himself.

I respectfully disagree.  If God has spoken about an action, and called it sin, then He must have given us the ability to opt out. If one of us is suffering from depression, He has provided help, of both the spiritual and medicine-based variety.

It might feel good, in the short term, to blame others, but we are all better off when we take responsibility for our own actions, stop looking for an outside person to point our finger at, and--this is most important--look to God for answers, healing, and help.


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