2 - Take responsibility. Don't make excuses.
Kent Crockett shared the following story in his book ‘The 911 Handbook’.
One day when my son Scott was two years old, I heard him crying. I went into his room and my daughter Hannah, who was four, was there also. A plastic bat was lying on the floor.
"What happened to Scott?" I asked.
Hannah answered, "He hit his head."
She pointed toward the bat on the floor and said, "The bat."
"Where was the bat?"
She said, "In my hand."
We learn the Blame-It-On-Someone-Else Method at such an early age.
I once had a dear friend confess to me that over the course of several months he had met with a handful of women privately for secret late night rendezvous. This happened as his wife slept. “My wife”, he said, “has a debilitating disease and we have not been intimate in several years. She has denied me intimacy for so long. I was just looking for a way to fill that gap in my life” This was the basis for his decision to meet with strangers for sexual favors.
Another friend, after having been caught in an affair and excommunicated for his sins, told his wife that “I am tired of trying to live up to your image of what you think I should be. Maybe if you weren't pushing me so hard I wouldn't have had the affair.”
In both cases, the men were quick to offer excuses for their actions. The knee jerk response was to somehow shift the blame to something their wife either did or didn't do. Passing blame is the perfect way for us to shift some of the weight and guilt for our choices. But there is no question that these flimsy excuses won't hold up in front of a council. No bishop will listen to such excuses and say, “You know what, you’re right, she is kind of bossy. You are justified in lusting after another.” They would never do that. No matter how difficult or perilous one’s marriage or family life is, only we can take ownership for our choices.
Don’t fall into the trap of the blame game. It will only break down lines of communication and make it impossible to move past current hurts onto healing. Take a step back and look to see who is the one crying and who is the one holding the bat.
A few months back I had a ‘slip’. I broke one of my personal rules and stayed up too late alone. It led to viewing a program that had far too many triggers in it. Those triggers eventually led to viewing pornography. This ‘slip’ devastated my wife. After more than a year of sobriety, she was suddenly faced again with the questions “Am I safe in this relationship? Is he going to be true? Is he going to have another affair?”. You might think it extreme to jump to such thoughts immediately after a year of sobriety, however, she knows that my addiction led me far beyond looking at pornography and into an affair that nearly destroyed our family. So a slip to her is only inches from a full blown affair. At the time, I was feeling guilty and ashamed and I felt that her response was an over reaction. I let her know so. For the following weeks she was far more observant of my comings and going and would sometimes hourly ask me how I was doing that day. ‘Did I feel strong?’ I allowed myself to get prideful and take offense. I began to think, “Hadn't I just proved my dedication with a year of sobriety? Hadn't I earned a small level of trust? One slip up was not the end of the world was it?”. At one point I pushed it back on her. “Stop asking me if I feel strong or if I feel ok”, I would say, “Its as if you are saying ‘I Don't Trust YOU!’, and I hate that.”
In this moment I took her need to feel safe and her genuine concern for me and meshed it with the shame and the guilt of my own failure. I then turned it around on her. I wanted her to stop asking. Not because I was worried about her level of trust, but because it made ‘ME’ feel guilty about ‘MY’ mistakes. And so, I went out of my way to make ‘her’ feel guilty for asking at all. Did I feel guilty?, Yes! Did I know she had problems trusting me?, Yes. But I made my guilt… hers. Even after putting weeks of space between the sin and the present, She still felt in danger.
As we, the offender, begin to heal from our sins and feel the forgiveness that comes through the atonement of Christ, we can become comfortable and slowly start to slip back into what feels like a “normal life”.In this new place of feeling forgiven, we may choose to act out in what we think of as a ‘Righteous pride’, and begin to blame her for ‘making us relive the sins of our past’ or ‘ Wanting to rehash old sins instead of focusing on the repented person we are’. Its easy to, even after months in recovery, somehow make them feel guilty for not recovering quickly enough from the crime that WE committed.
Again, we need to ask ourselves, who is the one holding the bat.
We can go a long way to helping our loved ones heal by simply accepting responsibility. Confess it all. Leave nothing in hiding. Answer every question, and above all… beware of pride. Pointing fingers or making excuses is a recipe for failure.