Genesis 1:31 reminds us that when God created all things, putting humanity amid His creation, He called it good, meaning we were designed for good. It’s in our design to long for harmony in this world. However, we’ll never experience the level of perfection God designed initially due to the fall. How we live and experience this world will never be completely free of challenges, pain, and bad things.
God intends for us to experience and know good, even though we’ll experience hurt, pain, confusion, grief, doubt, and seemingly impossible challenges. Life can be downright messy. Our inner being desires what man was designed to have. We want to see good in the world and around us. Unfortunately, this desire is corrupted by our desire to choose good and evil for ourselves. We’re susceptible to perfectionism, striving, and other actions that keep us figuring out how to get life right.
When life isn’t the way we want, for others or ourselves, we move to shaming, judging, blaming, accusing and defending ourselves from our imperfections. We live with imperfect efforts to live right and controlling attempts to get others to live right. When we understand what’s wrong, we hope to see it fixed, leading us into unhealthy patterns like complaining and blaming when life isn’t good.
The role of complaining and blaming.
As we face challenging and damaging realities, complaining and blaming makes sense. For example, when a friend isn’t as reliable as we thought or a loved one makes decisions we don’t like, something in us doesn’t feel secure and safe. We want, and sometimes need, to protect ourselves, prompting us to assign blame or fault. We also struggle to process our pain, leading us to various attempts at expressing it, which sometimes means complaining. Blaming can be helpful when it clarifies who’s responsible for what. Complaining is helpful when we’re honest about our experience to metabolize the bad and use what’s good.
There’s a place for emotional and honest expression as part of the healing process. Pouring out our complaints this way means we use emotions and words to work through pain and frustrations. Complaining and blaming make sense, and they play a role as we reorient ourselves from the need to have a perfect life and the reality that it isn’t. Something is out of our control, but at the same time, these actions often don’t bear fruit for the Christian who wants to experience a more fully alive life with God. Too often, we’re not engaging in truthful expression. Instead, we’re engaging in defensive protection from bad feelings and pain. Here are some reasons why blaming isn’t fruitful.
Blaming focuses on what you can’t control.
We typically think of blaming as telling another person what they did wrong. Perhaps they’re responsible, or they’re not. The easy path is to find someone to blame and focus on the issues of others rather than what’s happening inside of us and how we want to respond to challenging situations, as detailed in Matthew 7:3-5. Other people’s feelings, thoughts, and actions aren’t in our control. Some life events are out of our control and not any one person’s fault. The more we seek someone to blame, the more we focus on what we can’t control. This leads us into a spiral of unhealthy experiences and thoughts. We can only manage or control our choices, like how to respond to a situation and deal with overwhelming feelings when they surface.
Blaming prevents personal responsibility.
Focusing on what’s outside our control or our realm of responsibility to manage keeps us from noticing what’s within our control within our realm of self-stewardship. We’re responsible for managing our lives, including our actions, thoughts, feelings, painful realities, problematic patterns, choices, and gifts. Complaining and blaming become ways to stop personal responsibility. If our issues are always someone else’s fault and we don’t choose how to respond to them, then we never take ownership of our thoughts, actions, emotions, and desires. God calls us to manage what’s ours to manage.
Blaming prevents a peace-filled life.
We typically feel worse when we persist on defending ourselves from bad feelings by complaining and blaming. Even though we may unintentionally engage in these acts to protect peace in our lives, we end up stopping a genuine peace-filled life. Peace comes through God, and we experience peace when we experience God’s good design in us. This design includes experiencing being loved and known, even when we’ve done something terrible or feel bad. Suppose we don’t take personal responsibility for what’s ours to manage by complaining and blaming. In that case, we miss opportunities to receive God’s acceptance and love directly through Him and others.
Blaming denies a more profound need.
Pointing the finger at something or someone else as the source of your problems keeps us from attending to and noticing deeper needs. We may use complaining and blaming to keep the focus off of ourselves and our inability to manage distressing emotions. A surface-level need might be to stop feeling bad or have someone else’s behavior stop. We should go further to address and identify needs like connection, validation, encouragement, rest, and healing from overwhelm and stress. Having someone listen and understand how you experience the pain you feel, along with your emotions and thoughts about a person or event that impacted you, helps you get to deeper needs of being known, seen, loved, and accepted. Blaming or complaining about what and who’s wrong denies your genuine needs, which lay deeper in your soul.
God’s design in the Garden of Eden included regular connection and communication with us. We were vulnerable and naked but fully secure, safe, and loved. Today, we don’t always feel this to be true in our bodies, even when we want to believe with our minds. As a result, we move into self-protection, not self-stewardship. May we notice patterns within ourselves prevent us from experiencing a fully alive life with Christ. May we receive the guidance and courage needed to grow in vulnerability with God and save others the wisdom to manage ourselves when others aren’t safe and care for the more profound needs within us so we can steward this one life we’ve been given.