It's My Fault

“It’s my fault.”

I was startled by those words, mostly because they are so rare. Intrigued, I read further about a teacher whose students were struggling with reading. Rather than looking outward for the cause of the problem, she held herself accountable.

Everything in me wanted to protest the conclusion she came to. After all, the school schedule, difficult home lives of the students, the students’ attitudes, and many other factors must have played a part. It didn’t seem fair for the teacher to place herself at fault.

And yet…

I could see the wisdom in this woman’s diagnosis. She couldn’t control those outside factors. But she could add new teaching strategies, improve the tone of her interactions with students, and adjust the physical set-up of the room. 

By taking responsibility, this teacher gained possibilities. She gave herself permission to make changes, so she could make a difference for her students.

Reading about that teacher’s quiet courage gave me hope. In an unexpected way ‘it’s my fault’ is empowering. If even ten percent of a problem lies with me, than my actions can bring about some positive change. In other words, I am no longer at the mercy of other people and outside circumstances.

Perhaps the most important place to embrace the ‘it’s my fault’ mindset is in our personal interactions. Whether in the role of parent, coworker, spouse, committee member, or friend – we can only change our side of any relationship equation. When we accept that reality, we’ve made the first step toward positive changes. 

As I wrote in last week’s ‘friendly fire’ post, I came to the painful conclusion that the responsibility for struggles with my child did not rest totally on his shoulders. If I wanted different results, I had to start doing some things differently. 

This attitude of humility is not easy or natural – for me, or for any of us. We can see so clearly our own good intentions, the tough circumstances we’re up against that wear our patience thin, and how hard we’re trying in a relationship. It is harder to factor in those parts of the equation for the other person, or to face the less-than-admirable behaviors and words that come out of ourselves at times.

As we seek to come alongside our loved ones in a humble way, where can we find the motivation we need and a model to follow? It’s no surprise that Jesus provides both, through his example and his words.

A beautiful passage in Philippians 2 reminds us of the humility Jesus displayed by coming to earth as a man and living out obedience that led him to a painful death. He was consistently humble, from the manger to the cross. He did all this to put right our relationship with him, though we were the ones in the wrong!

Jesus also specifically taught his followers to deal with one another in a humble way. In Matthew 7 he talked to a crowd about judgment, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” He reminded them that self-righteousness is poison to relationships.

In other words, we need to deal with our own mess and learn to confess our part in any conflict. 

“It’s my fault,” may be some of the most powerful words we ever speak. As we take care of that plank in our own eyes, we build bridges with those we care about and give them a safe place to deal with their sawdust.

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Below you’ll find the questions I have been asking myself, as I do the heavy lifting required to remove some of the planks from my eye. For me, they center on the parenting issues I am in the thick of right now. I pray they’ll be useful to you, in any relationship where you desire to fight for and not with those you care about.

 

1.    What is my real motive here? Am I thinking only of what will benefit my child? Or am I concerned with making my life easier or keeping up my image as a “good parent”?

2.    Is there a clear Biblical standard I am committed to upholding, or simply personal preference I am insisting on? Do I think carefully about the difference between the two before correcting my child?

3.    What is my goal when we interact? Is it to reinforce that I am in charge, to win the argument? Or is it to have my child learn to listen to and follow their conscience, (the voice of God’s Spirit guiding and convicting them)?

4.    Finally, and most importantly, how much time have I devoted to prayer for this child? Am I quicker to contend for them on my knees, or to confront them with irritable words?