I get the train to work every day. It is overcrowded, the heaters are left on in summer, it is a miracle if it arrives on time and it tends to stops in the middle of nowhere to allow other late-running trains to overtake. It is, if you will, a necessary evil.
I’ve complained about the trains many times. I’ve blamed the train company, I’ve blamed other commuters and I’ve blamed engineering work. I know my blaming will do nothing to make the commute better, and yet I still do it.
In my perfect world, the train would arrive at its destination on time, all carriages would be beautifully air-conditioned, it wouldn’t stop at other stations and tickets would be cheaper.
The reason I want that is because I am selfish, and would love the world to revolve around me. And we are all guilty of that. We need to realise our selfishness in order to see real freedom and change, but we cannot do so if we keep blaming other people or other circumstances.
And this happens at all levels of British society. We love a good moan. We’re a nation of complainers. We live in a blame culture. And that is devastating, destructive and wrong. I know full well that I am guilty of contributing to this blame culture, which is seen in many different ways.
We blame the weather for giving us a bad attitude.
We blame people for ruining our day.
We blame politicians for everything.
We blame the media for how we view certain people.
We blame our jobs for causing us stress.
We blame our upbringing for who we are.
Yet we never blame ourselves.
Blaming other people for issues is like trying to cure cancer by putting a plaster on it. Our blame culture is merely a symptom of the deeper problem within us: we are selfish people with proud hearts. I am selfish. You are selfish. We are a nation of selfish people blaming each other and blaming our circumstances for who we are and how we act.
Our blame culture means that the blame is always somehow ‘out there’. Nothing is ever our fault. We claim we’re a free nation yet we’re slaves to our selfishness.
This creates an almost unbreakable cycle.
The cycle of blame goes as follows. Something goes wrong. We blame someone or something else. We refuse to take responsibility, however small, for what’s happened. We become more selfish because we see we avoided the blame. Repeat that cycle over a lifetime, and we get our blame culture.
This blame cycle is seen in one of its most extreme forms during political elections.
In a month’s time, voters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will elect new members to their respective Assemblies. People in Liverpool, Salford, Bristol and London will elect new mayors. Promises are thrown around like pollen on a windy summer’s day.
New people will be elected. Certain groups will be happy. Other groups won’t. The free newspapers will have endless pages of analysis and comment. And we’ll get back on our train to work, sit at our desks, eat our lunch, tick off our to-do lists and go home. We won’t see the change we want – not immediately anyway.
And so we blame the very people we wanted to elect for the problems that we face. Rather than standing up and doing something, we complain and moan and feel good that we’ve got it off of our chests. And nothing changes, apart from our selfish hearts becoming darker and emptier.
The freedom should crave is found in accepting responsibility. Freedom is found in accepting the blame.
Unfortunately, we are born selfish. Accepting the blame is hard – it dents our pride. We cannot simply not be selfish by trying hard to not be selfish. We cannot simply not blame other people by trying hard to not blame other people.
There is only one person who was blameless, yet took our blame. There is only one person who was selfless, yet died for the selfish.
As Jesus died on the cross, all the blame there ever was and ever will be was poured out onto him. He took our blame and we are now free! We are free from the cycle of blame. We are free to be humble and free to take hits to our pride because Jesus paid the ultimate price to declare you blameless for eternity.
The poet and philosopher G.K. Chesterton is said to have written to the Times Newspaper many decades ago. The editor asked him, “What’s wrong with the world?”
“Sir-”, Chesterton replied, “I am.”
That should be our attitude. That is an attitude of a man who has been changed by the blame-removing love of Jesus. What a better place the world would be if we looked to Jesus and adopted that humble and honest attitude.