It’s easy to play the blame game when our relationships need fixing, but how often does it get the job done?
- Is it difficult to admit you’re wrong? Why or why not?
- What’s the most difficult relationship you’ve had to repair in your life, and what did you learn from that experience?
- How would you define freedom?
- Do you believe you can experience freedom in the midst of conflict?
- If yes, how so? If no, why not?
- Can you think of any current relationships where you simply pointed your finger at the other person without looking at yourself? If so, how can you begin to take ownership for your part in the mess?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So I know we were all raised in different ways in different families, but the way I was raised was that the man in the relationship is ultimately responsible for the relationship, which seems like a terrible idea because we’re so bad at relationships, but that’s how I was raised and again, that’s just how I was raised. But the way I internalized that growing up and even moving into marriage was that if anything went wrong in the relationship, that ultimately somehow it was my fault, and I say somehow because sometimes it takes me a few minutes to figure out how it’s my fault. So in our marriage, it goes like this, Sandra’s like, “Andy, I’m so sorry, I should have told you Andy.” And I’m like, “Oh, I know. It’s my fault, it’s my fault.” She’s like, “How was it your fault?” I’m like, “I don’t know, just give me a minute, I’ll come up with something.” I just feel this…
Again, I don’t know if it’s healthy and this isn’t marriage advice, this is just me, and so through the years, I have a default, so when I can’t figure out how what she did or what she was apologizing for is ultimately my fault, I default to this, “Well, if I hadn’t asked you to marry me in the first place, this would have never happened.” Again, I’m not suggesting this is a habit or pattern, this is just… This is just us. And the reason I bring it up is this as we kinda jump into the content today, given enough time, given enough time, there is always a way to sneak yourself a slice of what we’re gonna call the blame pie. Given enough time, regardless of what happened, who said what or how long ago that relationship was broken, or how recently it was broken, or maybe something happened this morning or this afternoon, and there’s conflict in the relationship, given enough time, there’s always a way to find yourself a slice of the blame pie, even if it’s just a little sliver of the pie. Because whenever there’s a relational conflict, somebody is to blame.
And here’s what I know about you, when there is relational conflict, there’s somebody to blame, and it’s not you. Is it? Let us just be honest, no, ’cause not you, you’re mature, you would have never… It’s not you, it’s the other person, or let’s just say it’s rarely you. And if your goal, as we’ve talked about in this series, and if you haven’t been with us, I’m gonna catch you up in a minute, if your goal, and I hope it is, is to get back to that person rather than get back at that person. One of the best ways to get back to rather than get back at, is to take a slice of the pie, maybe a little bit larger slice of the pie, but anyway, and the way you get back is you grab a piece, or you slice a piece of the blame pie.
So anyway, we are all much better at starting relationships and even maintaining relationships than we are at fixing relationships when they break. And when there’s a conflict or when there’s a crack or when there’s a breach or when there’s that silent distance and we’re thinking, “Oh-oh, something’s wrong.” And again, this could be recent or this could have happened years ago, we generally employ management tools that do not work in relationships. So in week one I introduced the C4 approach to relationship management, because relationships need to be managed absolutely, they don’t. And so they were the four C’s, the convince, “I’m just gonna give you a bunch of information, then you’re gonna see it my way and repent.” The convict, “Well, after all I’ve done for you, it’s kind of the shame thing,” then coerce and control. So we naturally, when the relationship gets a little wobbly or it breaks or we’re thinking, “You know, hey, this has been a mess for a while, I wanna get back in there and fix this,” these are the kinds of things we go for.
We go for management tools and we manage to make things worse because… And then when they don’t work, because none of this ever works relationally, it doesn’t work on you, it doesn’t work on me, it doesn’t really work on anybody, then we get frustrated, we get frustrated and we’re frustrated because we just feel so shut out, so then we shut down and we feel locked out so we kind of get locked down if you’re more like me, more of an introvert. Or if you’re more of an extrovert, you get too expressive and you say too much and you just make things worse. And then when you realize, “This isn’t going anywhere, I’ve been too quiet or I’ve been too… I’ve said too much, nothing I’ve tried work,” we basically fall into making one of three excuses. And I wanna talk about these real quick, and the first one is so insidious, in fact, this first excuse we make when the relationship isn’t getting any better and nothing we do and nothing we’ve tried helps. This first one that we retreat to, if this is you, this is worth the price of admission, which I think is zero.
So it’s yes, it’s worth the price of admission. So here it is, “I don’t care. I just don’t care. I don’t even care anymore. I don’t even care anymore. Do you wanna talk about it? I don’t care anymore.” “Don’t you think you should call her?” “I don’t even… I just don’t care.” When you hear yourself say, I don’t care, or when you catch yourself thinking as the reason you’re not gonna pursue or try to patch things up, I don’t care, you need to pay really close attention to that because I don’t care, is often what we say about things we actually care deeply about. We don’t say, I don’t care about things we don’t actually care about because they don’t even cross our minds, right? I don’t care when it comes to that person or that group, it may mean I’m powerless to do anything about it, but I wish I could. I don’t care. I think what you mean is you feel powerless to do anything about it, and you’re retreating to pretending like or trying to convince yourself that you really don’t care when in actuality, you’re just powerless to do anything about it, and things we can’t do anything about, but wish we could are actually things we care deeply about.
And here’s why I say it’s so insidious. When that connection gets lost, we become unhealthy. And here’s what I mean by connection, when you really do care, but you decide that you don’t care, all that frustration and all that energy, even though you turn your back on that person or that group of people, ’cause you don’t care, you’re carrying all that energy, all that anger, all that stuff, and it’s gonna go with you. It’s gonna go with you into another relationship, and you’ll never be able to resolve that relational conflict, because you may never understand what’s fueling it to begin with. And when we do that, we become our own worst enemy, and here’s the thing that makes it even compounds the complexity and the tragedy is you may have very little blame, there may be very little that you did to create the tension to begin with, but your little itty-bitty slice of the pie, and I don’t care, set you up oftentimes, for history to repeat itself.
So if you’re one of those people, it’s like, “You know what, I’m not ever calling. I just don’t care.” I may be wrong, okay? This is the Beginner’s Guide, right? But you should pay attention to that. Second excuse that we run to when we just don’t think we can make things any better is, “I already tried.” And we talked a little bit about this. “I’ve already tried,” and I tried, what I tried indicates is arms crossed, “I’m done. I’m waiting on them. I’m waiting on them.”
when you cross your arms, and when I cross my arms and just say, “You know what, I tried,” what we’ve basically said is, “I’m gonna have the posture of waiting on them as opposed to a posture of leaning into them,” because the goal is to keep the door open, the goal is to keep the drawbridge down, to keep the welcome mat out. It’s a posture, it’s an attitude. And of course, as you already know, it’s a process.
the third excuse that we run to when we can’t seem to make the relationship any better is this, “Well, you know, it wasn’t my fault anyway. It wasn’t my fault. Well, of course, there’s conflict, but you know, it just wasn’t my fault.” And this is where our internal narrative always ends. I mean, when you think about that person or when you’re telling the story, “Why don’t you call your mom? Why aren’t you and your dad… What about your brother? The guy you work with, you we’re so close. What happened?” When you rehearse that story, either externally or internally, at the end of the story, the moral of the story is, this wasn’t my fault it always ends there, right? And that may be true, it may not have been your fault, but if you’ve been tracking along with us in this series that’s really beside the point, because reassembly, reconnection, working toward reconciliation, it always begins with us regardless of who initiated the fuss.
And here’s why, it’s not just cute, here’s why, because the healthiest and the most mature person in the conflict, the healthiest and the most mature person in the relationship is the person that should make the first move because they’re the healthiest, and they’re the most mature. And here’s what I know about all of you. You are the healthiest and you are the most mature people in that relationship, aren’t you? Yeah, of course you are. Of course they think, “No, they are.” But that’s the point, if the healthiest and most mature person in any argument or any relational breakdown will make the first move, everybody thinks we’re just arrogant enough to think, “Well, I’m definitely more mature, I would have never acted like that,” right? So if you really are the healthiest, and the most mature, you should make the first move.
And if you’re a Christian, gosh, we don’t have any excuse, because here’s what we believe, that God made the first move toward us while we were still sinners. Christ died for us, for God so loved the world that he moved in our direction, not to get back at us, but to get back to us, and then He invited us to do the same for the people around us. He invited us to do for others what God in Christ has done for us, and to ensure that we do, Jesus, ask us a really, really irritating question to ensure that we don’t use the other person’s behavior as an excuse to just cross our arms and say, “Hey, I’m waiting. Whenever you’re ready, I’m waiting, but I’m not gonna… ” To ensure that we don’t do that, Jesus ask all of us a really, really irritating question.
And regardless of your religious background, or if you have any religion this is so relevant, it’s a reason, I think you should consider following Jesus regardless of what you think about Jesus, because it’s these kinds of things that are so brilliant and so life-changing and ultimately so world-changing. So Jesus is looking at us, He knows about our relationships, He knows what they did and what you did, and they know, He knows all the circumstances, and then He gets all up in our business and he says, “Hey, I got a question. Why do you look at that speck of sawdust in their eye, your brother’s eye, sister’s eye, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, the person you work with, the person you’re married to, your neighbor, whoever it was, that uncle that messes things up and you don’t invite him anymore. Why do you look at the speck, that little tiny itty-bitty thing of sawdust in your brother’s eye and you don’t pay any attention to the plank in your own eye?”
In other words, He’s saying, “Why are you so focused on what they did, why are you so focused on what they did that… Oh yeah, you can’t do anything about. And why aren’t you paying any attention to what you did that you can do something about, why aren’t you paying any attention to your part that you can address?” And we all have the same answer to this question. “To begin with Jesus. To begin with Jesus, it’s not a speck of sawdust. That thing in their eye, it’s not little itty-bitty. Well, you’re not paying attention. It’s huge. He left, she didn’t follow through, they fired me for no good reason, he stole my idea. Again. so don’t get all on me about little speck in his eye, it is not a speck.” So that’s answer number one.
Answer number two, “I don’t have a plank in my eye, so you’re wrong on both accounts, in fact, I think you’ve confused the two of us. They’re the one with the plank. I’m the one with the speck. I don’t have a plank in my eye.” Now realize I’m talking to Jesus. So nobody’s perfect, “Okay, I’m not perfect, but I didn’t start the fire. She did. They did. He did. And besides that, I was there for this. So I see clearly what happened. My vision, my perspective is I am spot on, I know exactly what happened, there’s no filter, I see clearly what happened, and clearly it wasn’t my fault. And if they are ever able to see as clearly as I am, well then, I’m around, I’m waiting, I’ll talk to him. No offense, Jesus. But are we done here?” He says, “No, ’cause you got a second question.” See, is this relevant. It’s like, who said this? I know 2000 years ago, it’s like He read our mind, it’s like He’s been watching our families. He says, the second question, “How can you say to that person, your brother,” that sort of encapsulates any potential person or group having conflict with. “How can you say to your brother, permit me to take the speck out of your eye.”
How is it you’re even thinking, “You know what? If she would sit down, if he would sit down and be reasonable and listen to me, I have the ability to take the little speck out of their eye so they can see as clearly as I do.” And Jesus is like, “Really, you really think you have such clarity on this that you have the ability and you wanna say to them ‘Permit me, allow me'” and let’s just say what it is. I’ll say how we think about it. “Allow me to fix you. You’re broken. You’re insecure. You are relationally, you’re just so immature, but if you sit down with me and you listen to my side of the story and my version of the story, and you’re open-minded, you gotta be open-minded, like I am, allow me to fix you, allow me to correct you.” Jesus is like you’re not completely wrong, but you just have things out of order, you’re not ready, you don’t see as clearly as you think you do, because you have more work to do.”
“How can you say, how can you say to your brother, ‘Permit me to take the speck out of your eye.'” And this is so interesting when all the time, there is a plank in your own eye. Now, the English phrase all the time is actually one Greek word, and in Greek, this is a play on words. It’s kind of a cool little thing going on. So literally, here’s what this would say, if we translate it literally. “How can you say to your brother, permit me to take the speck out of your eye when behold, there is a plank in your own eye.” Or to make it super colloquial, here’s what it would say. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Permit me to take the speck out of your own eye,’ when look there, will you. There is a plank in your eye.” Then I think Jesus smiled when He said this next, I think Jesus was super friendly. He smiles and he says, “You hypocrite.” Ypokritis, it’s a little Greek word, where we get the word hypocrite. Ypokritis. “You actor, you pretender,” and we’re so busted, right?
“So okay, Jesus, let me see if I get this right, so what you’re saying is, I got my issues, and they got their issues, and I should focus on my issues and I should let them focus on their issues. In other words, what you’re saying, the moral of this teaching is that I should just mind my own business, right?” To which Jesus would say, “No. Uh-uh.” This is a lesson on reconciliation, this isn’t a lesson on how you run to your little self-righteous corner and tell your story for the rest of your life. This is a lesson on reconciliation, and Jesus’ point is you should start with your own business, but it doesn’t end there, in fact, he even uses the word first. “You hypocrites,” first, because there’s a second and possibly a third.
First, take the plank out of your own eye. In other words, before you fix them or even talk to other people about how you would like to fix them or change them or get them to see things your way, you’re getting things out of order. And granted, I understand why things are out of order, what they did was horrible, what they did was terrible. What they did was so disruptive, and they did it over and over and over, I mean, we get it. But Jesus says, Okay, before we get to them, we gotta start with you. So you just gotta start with the plank, you gotta identify your slice of the blame pie, and it may be the tee tiny. And it may take a minute, in fact, some of you are listening or you’re watching and here’s what you’re thinking, you’re like,”Okay, for everybody else, Yeah, but let me just tell you what, this whole pie belongs in their face, okay, none of this pie belongs to me.”
So I wanna challenge you to pray a prayer, if you don’t believe God answers prayer, pray this prayer. Heavenly Father, please show me where I was at fault. And before you finish the sentence, something may come to mind, in fact, as soon as I said that and suggested it, something came to mind. It’s like, “No, it’s so tiny.” Guys, your Savior who loves you is like, “I know it’s so tiny, but that’s where you start.” But I mean, it’s like, my fault was kind of a reaction to what they did. We’ll start with that. Are you willing to pray that? Would you show me my slice of the pie. And this is amazing. After Jesus says that, He makes you a promise, He makes you a promise. The promise is, If you’re humble enough, if you’re self-aware enough, if you’re sensitive enough to that still small voice that kind of nudges you in this direction, Jesus says, if you’ll do that, then, this is amazing, then you will see clearly. Which makes sense, because there will be something out of your eye.
If there’s something in your eye, is keeping you from seeing clearly, Jesus is saying, “Look, I just want you to see clearly, and you can’t see clearly, as long as you’re worried about what’s in their eye, that’s what keeps them from seeing clearly. I want you to see clearly.” And once you decide, Hey, put them aside for a moment. They’ve wrecked and ruined my life, maybe it’s huge, maybe it’s just a neighbor thing, maybe it’s so small, you’re like, “Does this even apply?” He’s like, “If you will allow me to help you identify your slice of the blame pie, and you will do what you can to remove it, you will see clearly.” But there’s not a period here, and the reason there’s not a period here, and this is so important, in fact, if you used to be a Christian or Jesus follower, more religious, and the reason you lost faith is because of a person of faith, it’s because they didn’t follow Jesus perhaps in this regard.
There’s no period here because following Jesus never stops with me, and following Jesus is never about you, and following Jesus never stops with, “Wow, I’m a better person now. Thank you, Jesus.” Whatever God is doing in me and whatever God wants to do in you, even in this regard, is a means to an end, and relationships are always, always, always the end. Here’s the promise. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.” First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly. And you won’t just be a clearer seer, you will see clearly with a purpose. You will see clearly to help remove the speck from your brother, your sister, your sister-in-law, the person your neighbor, maybe somebody used to work with. You will be in a better position to help them get in a better position, because recognizing and owning the log in my eye prepares me to move towards you, not to get back at you, but to get back to you.
In other words, if there’s something about me that’s an obstacle to us, if there’s something about me, even the tiny thing that’s an obstacle to us, then I’ve got to cut myself a slice of the pie and identify it, and admit it and own it. And then remove it. And this is hard. When it comes to re-assembling or repairing or fixing a relationship, it’s hard, because all of us, and we don’t like to admit, this is so ugly, all of us have a little thread of self-righteousness. Do you know what Jesus hated? He hated self-righteousness. You know why He was always after the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law. It wasn’t that they were dumb, it wasn’t that they weren’t trying. They were just so self-righteous, they were just so sure of themselves, they were so focused on the speck in everybody else’s eye, he’s like, You got double logs, okay. And your problem is you’re never going to address them because you think you’re too good and so much better than everybody else, self-righteousness always gets in the way. Self-awareness paves the way. And restoring or fixing a broken relationship requires self-awareness.
The Apostle Paul, summed it up this way, and we’re gonna come back to this verse next time as we wrap up the series. Here’s what he wrote, it is so powerful, If it is possible, because sometimes it’s not, he’s a realist. If it is possible, then he kind of doubles down, as far as it depends on you, it’s like, Okay, your slice might be really, really, really thin, but anything that comes back and sits on your side of the equation as far as it is possible… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace or make peace. Or some translations say, Live at peace with everyone. And addressing, identifying and owning my part of the blame depends on me. Which means reconciliation always begins in the mirror. And depending on how emotional it was, and depending on how hurt you are and depending on how it affected you financially or may be affected your career or how much time you get to spending with one of your children or your grandchildren this is… I realize this is deep, deep, deep, heavy stuff. It still depends on you beginning in the mirror.
Because if we, come on, we’re friends, if we aren’t willing to do what we’re convinced they should do, what does that make us? Yeah, Jesus was right. You’re hypocrites. He’s like, ooh he’s so smart. So when we discover that log or that sliver, or that piece of pie, and if it’s safe, we’ve talked about that. And if it’s appropriate, ’cause sometimes it’s not safe for appropriate. But if you discover that little slice and it’s safe and appropriate, then yep, you may need to write a letter, you may need to send an email, you may need to call somebody, you may need to have coffee.
If you’ll go first, your humility, because humility is the most… It is the most powerful relational dynamic. Humility, it is the most… Humility draws people, self-righteousness just pushes people away. If you’re willing to go first with your little slice of the pie, your confession, your ownership of that may unlock something in the other person that they can’t figure out how to unlock all by themselves. There are people living with extraordinary guilt because they know the pie is theirs, but it’s so painful to admit it, they have all this bravado and they have all this hard shell, and they’re just so fierce and you just think you’re never ever gonna break through and it’s not because they don’t know they’re guilty, it’s not because they don’t know they were at fault, they don’t know what to do with it. Because just as no one trained us how to fix a relationship, no one ever trains us about what to do with guilt and shame, right? So we just carry it around and it affects all of our relationships and who knows, your humility in that moment, maybe the thing that gives them just enough emotional margin to acknowledge and to confess and to set them free from something they’ve been carrying a long, long time. But even if it doesn’t, this is what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Here’s something I’ve learned, I think I’ve shared this with you before, I’ve learned and I learned this the hard way. I just gotta say that the more aware I am of what God has yet to do in me, the slices of multiple pies, the less aware I am and the less consumed I am with what he has yet to do in the people around me. That the more aware I am, which is God made me aware. The less concerned I am, and the less consumed I am, some of you, you’re consumed and you don’t wanna be consumed, and if I heard your story, I would say, “You know what, you have every reason in the world to be consumed by that person, by what happened, those events.” And your heavenly Father, this is how Jesus said it, He said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden. Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I’m gonna give you rest.” Then he says this, “I want you to take my yoke upon you,” which means you’re carrying the yoke of guilt and shame, you’re carrying the yoke of fear, you’re carrying the yoke of it’s never gonna work out. You’re carrying the yoke of nothing’s ever gonna change.
He’s like, “I want you to take that off, I want you to take my yoke upon you, ’cause I am gentle and I am humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” So this is about you, but it’s not for you. This is for you, but it’s not just about you. This is an invitation to follow Jesus in such a way that’s something happens in you, but something potentially happens through you, and you may be the key to unlocking a lock that doesn’t seem like it’s ever gonna be unlocked in somebody else’s heart through your humility. And you know what’s gonna happen, if you do this for the rest of your life, I promise you, when you read this passage, and he talks about the speck in their eye and the log in yours, you’re not gonna be offended by that because you will discover, because you will have experienced it, and you will realize that what was in your eye, what’s in my eye is bigger than we thought it was, and what I was sure was in their eye wasn’t quite as big.
Now imagine, it’s hard to imagine. Imagine what would happen in your family. Imagine what would happen in our community. Imagine what would happen in our nation. Imagine what would happen in the world if everybody just paused and took this one lesson from Jesus seriously. If we stopped all of our finger pointing, both kinds, if we stopped all of our finger pointing and took an honest look in the mirror, because after all, the person in the mirror is the only person any of us can do anything about. So I know it’s tough for some of you, this is like a small thing. It’s a neighbor thing, it’s this guy at work thing, for some of you, it’s been years and years and years thing, for some of you, it’s so emotional, it’s so complicated.
For some of you it’s… You almost feel like I’ve been insensitive to even suggest this. I understand that. But I wanna invite you in this very specific way to follow Jesus. And I would invite you as He’s invited you to go first.