I had a B alliteration going on in my Convention address a little over a month ago. I began with blessedness and belovedness – and how God wants, indeed expects, us to embrace them. And then there are the burdens – what I have referred to over the years as the killer B’s – buildings, budgets, boilers and burn-out. Those killer B’s can take over the life of a congregation – because they are real, and most of the time they are urgent (especially to vestries). I added another killer B – blame. I now hear and see blame more than anytime I can remember. Our culture is awash in blame. Some presidential candidates have staked their whole campaigns on leveling blame. Vote for the better blamer.
We blame because, at some level, it works. And if we can’t find someone else to blame, more often than not blame is leveled against ourselves. Blame has become a vicious killer B – because it shuts down imagination, turns our blessedness into feelings of inadequacy or worse – and blinds us to the fact that our hope is in God.
Our hope indeed is in God. That is what guides me, and gathers me with others to dare not just to live into our blessedness and belovedness, but to share it with others. Since Convention, I hear of more congregations and people daring to live into that hope. They are not engaging in elaborate strategic plans, but instead are engaging in small experiments that engage the local community – and through them to discern what God is up to and how they might join God in sharing blessedness and belovedness.
This weekend, some clergy and parishioners will gather with our partners/consultants from the Missional Network to learn more about joining God in shaping our future, to support one another in the journey which we call “Going Local,” and to reinforce the commitment that the journey is a process and not a program. Some congregations will be brand new to this journey; others have been at it for awhile.
When I get anxious, I go to my defaults – tried and true practices and habits that in fact are no longer tried and true. I – we, are being called to go deeper, to develop new habits and practices. To be more intentional about claiming our belovedness and discovering the blessedness in others. One way that I am trying to do that – especially during this season of Lent, is to give up blame. Blaming me, blaming others – continuing to blame the kid who scapegoated me fifty years ago.
I am discovering that it is hard work to give up blame. I get a lot of energy out of blame. In my mind blame reinforces the illusion that I am always right. And yet – as I work at giving up blame, I realize how much space I have given over to it. And how distorted the world looks from the perspective of blame, how locked into my default habits and practices I am and how closed off to God’s mercy I become.
For as long as there have been members of the human family, God has invited us to accept and embrace the blessedness and belovedness of all creation. It is an enormous and nonrefundable gift. It is an antidote to blame, if we can care to accept it.
Perhaps we blame ourselves and others because we refuse to deal with the reality of sin. Yes, sin...That most unpopular of words to us. We can only accept forgiveness and therefore refrain from blaming when we realize that we have sin in our lives, seek real and meaningful forgiveness, and move forward. Yes we are indeed blessed because we have been forgiven and accepted.
Thank you for this reflection, Mark. My grandmother used to say, "If it's not yours, don't pick it up." She was talking about toys and sweaters and stuff, but I think it's a good rule of life. Not taking on blame - or the need to blame and shame others - is as important to a healthy emotional and spiritual life as accepting responsibility for our flaws and faults and mistakes.
This article about how blame (and shame) can become toxic was just published in The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/silent-clergy-killers-tox_b_1...
I think Dennis Maynard's work on this dynamic ought to be required reading for all bishops, deployment officers, "Fresh Start" facilitators, search committees, vestries, COMs, aspirants (and, again for candidacy), and clergy who are new to the diocese.
And, of course, Reddiger's work is classic (but Maynard's is more accessible) http://www.amazon.com/Clergy-Killers-Guidance-Pastors-Congregations/dp/0...
Thanks for raising such an important issue in our common life together. It's a great way to explore all facets of human behavior during Lent.
Thanks for being a bishop of courage to speak to our rutures!
I think it also can become the result of a movement when looking for the cause of a problem in order to find what needs to be fixed. When you find the cause it can lead to the negativity and potential emotion to come with it. In other cases it is very simple. For example, Person A and B get into a car accident with each other. At least one person will feel it was not their fault. Then there is blame.
"Yesterday was the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present"
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