You can’t blame your way into a better future. How do you own your share of the past so it doesn’t own you?
- Describe a time when you let yourself down (when you broke your own rules).
- Why is blaming others so easy to do?
- Do you agree that blame enables us to smuggle our issues into the future? Why or why not?
- Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Think about someone you know who has put in the hard work of “purifying their heart” by owning their past. What can you learn from them?
- When you think about your past, is there anything you need to own in order to move on? What would you need to do to make peace with your past?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
We’re in the second part of this series called, Starting Over, and the subtitle is, “How to ensure next time won’t be like the last time.” So if you’re starting over anything, or you’ve just started something over… A career, a company, a marriage… You sort of took a pause in your marriage, or that marriage is in the rear-view mirror, now you’re thinking about starting a new one. A relationship, academically, professionally, morally, financially, whatever starting over… We’re talking about how to make sure that next time isn’t like last time.
So here is what we’re gonna do, for the next three weeks, beginning today. I wanna talk about three things, three exercises, three processes… They’re not really disciplines, three dynamics, that you’ve got to engage with, to make sure that next time is better than last time. These are things that are gonna help you evaluate your experience, because experience doesn’t just make you wiser. These are gonna be things that help you do better, not just know better, and especially next week, we’re gonna talk about some things that are gonna help you leverage the time. If you’re wise enough to, kind of, hit the pause button, before you jump back in to whatever’s next, these three things are gonna help you, specifically. I’m gonna give all three to you today, and so we’ll kind of know where we’re going for the next three weeks. The three go like this, “Own it. Rethink it,” and, “Release it.” And I worked really hard to come up with an ‘R’ word here, and I just couldn’t find one that says it like, “Own it”. And today I want us to talk about, “Own it.”
And here’s what I mean by, “Own it.” In order for you to ensure that your negative history doesn’t repeat itself, you have to own your role in your negative history. In order to make sure that your past doesn’t start creeping into the future, to make sure that the future isn’t a repeat of the past that you don’t wanna repeat, you’ve got to pause long enough to… We don’t do this because we’re in such a hurry. You’ve gotta pause long enough to actually own your responsibility. Own what was your fault. Own your part of the disaster, whether it was professionally, romantically, relationally, academically, whatever it might be.
Now, the reason we don’t do this is because, let’s face it, there’s nothing to own, it wasn’t your fault, was it? I mean, it wasn’t your fault… I mean, she left. Wasn’t your fault, He fell in love with the bottle, right? It’s not your fault she… He didn’t tell you about his habit. She didn’t tell you about her prescription drug thing, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault… “Nobody can work for that guy, everybody hates him, everybody knows he’s a jerk… ” It’s not your fault.
“How was I supposed to know the economy was gonna do what the economy did? It’s just not my fault.” So the reason we don’t pause and own our part of our own history is there’s something in you, and there’s something in me that says, “You know what? There’s a better story to tell.” And I don’t wanna tell a story about, “I screwed up.” I’d rather tell a story about how unfair they were and how dishonest they were, and how disingenuous and how they just, they never, they never… They always kept me off balance. I don’t wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about them.
Let me put it here… Your best bet for a successful future is to own your share of your past, or of the past. Your best bet… I mean this is huge… Your best bet for a successful future as you start over whatever it is you’re starting over is to fully own your slice of the past.
Now the best illustration as to why this is so hard for us actually comes from the Bible, and as we’re gonna see you get this honestly. If you’re a citizen of humanity, which you are, if you’re part of the human race, it is in you to blame other people and to blame circumstances and to blame somebody else. It is in you to just ignore your part and to get so enamored with your story, your poor, your pitiful story, the story that people cry and they write you checks and they offer you jobs, and they say, “No wonder.” That stuff.
We get so enamored with our story that we don’t stop long enough to ask the question, “What was my part in the breakdown? What was my part in the thing I’m having to restart?” And the reason we’re so good at this is because we’re related to two Biblical characters named Adam and Eve. Now… Just a minute. I wanna tell you just a little bit of their story.
But before I do, I wanna say something about Adam and Eve. If you grew up in church, the whole Adam and Eve thing is like, “Oh, yeah. Adam and Eve, I got that. I kinda believe that. I don’t really think about it, I just grew up believing that.”
If you didn’t grow up in church, or you had the same freshman English class that I had where we looked at Genesis as a myth, and the creation story as one of many ancient myths, and lots of different cultures and civilizations had creation myths, and you walked out of that class going, “Huh. So my Sunday school teacher was wrong, my preacher was wrong, my parents were wrong, my small group leaders were wrong. My freshman English teacher, you know, they’re brilliant, so they’ve kinda taken away from me the whole Adam and Eve thing.” If that’s where you are, I totally get that. I totally respect you for that, I do not expect you to believe Adam and Eve were real people, okay?
But you need to know one thing. The reason Christians take the Adam and Eve story seriously is not because it’s in The Bible. The reason we take the Adam and Eve story seriously is because Jesus took the Adam and Eve story seriously. And Christians follow Jesus so we just go with whatever He said. Now you’ve heard me say this a hundred times but you’ll hear me say it a hundred times more. The reason we take Jesus seriously is because if someone can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off, we just go with whatever He says.
That’s why we take Adam and Eve seriously, not because it’s in Genesis. Now, here’s the amazing thing. If you just see this as literature, which I’m all for that, you can see this as literature, the insights in this ancient… And this is not just ancient, it’s ancient, ancient, ancient literature. It is so old, it is older than old. There’s so much dust on it, it is so ancient. There is so much insight about human nature in this triply ancient piece of literature, that when we read it just a second, whoever wrote it had so much insight, I think you should read everything else He wrote whether you think it’s inspired or not.
That’s how brilliant this story is that some of us think it actually happened, others of us think it was an ancient way of describing the way that the world began. Either way you go, it’s incredible. So you don’t have to believe it’s historical, but look at what we learn about ourselves from this little piece of Genesis. Here’s where I’m gonna kinda skip through the story to get to the part I wanna talk most about but we’ll give it a little context.So God… This is Genesis chapter one… So God created mankind in His own image. Boy, there’s a lot packed into that. In the image of God, He repeats it, Moses repeats it. He created them, male and female. He created them. And He goes on, He says this, “But God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number.'” Adam said, “Okay, what about the Ten Commandments?” God said, “Okay, they didn’t come for like hundreds of years later. Just run around and have babies and enjoy yourself in the garden.”
Adam didn’t really say that but this was like… This is amazing, this is amazing. In the garden of Eden, according to the writer of Genesis, there was just one rule. I don’t know who would’ve made this up. There was just one rule. God said, “You see that tree over there? Don’t eat from the fruit of that tree. That’s the only rule.” So there’s not like Ten commandments and there’s just one. And it seems kinda irrelevant, doesn’t it? Like, “You can eat anything you want, run around the garden naked, just don’t… I gotta have one rule because by having one rule it establishes me as the boss, okay? So just don’t do that, it’s not even a hard rule. Just don’t eat of that tree.” Right?
And so of course they did exactly what we did when we were kids, we’d grab or take toward the one thing or the two things or the three things we’re not supposed to do. And here’s what’s amazing. In the beginning according to Christian belief, in the beginning according to Jewish belief, in the beginning when God had everything just like God wanted it, there was only one rule. Now that’s brilliant. If that’s not true, whoever made this up, I mean… In other words, in the beginning when God had everything just the way He wanted it, there was no need for a bunch of rules because people were created under His authority. And they said, “Well, of course, we’ll do whatever you say. You’re like God. What else would we do?” Well, if that’s the way it is, there’s no need for a bunch of rules. But then Adam and Eve broke the one rule and here’s what scripture teaches, here’s what Christians believe. And when they broke this rule, you got messed up and I got messed up. Sin entered the world. Now, you may not believe in sin, but there is sin and you’re a sinner. And if that’s offensive, let me tell you what I mean by that. I don’t mean you’re a sinner, because of something in the Bible. I mean you’re a sinner in this way. You don’t even keep your own rules. You don’t even exercise three times a week.
You eat stuff that’s bad for you. You say unkind things to people and you feel guilty about it later and then you repeat yourself. You can’t even… You can’t even break your own bad habits.
You don’t need the Bible to tell you there’s something wrong with you. C’mon, you know there’s something wrong with you. I know there’s something wrong with me. The Bible calls it sin. You can call it anything you want but we know this, at some point in the world and the history of humanity, something bad got blended into the way we think and the way we act. Christians think this is how it happened. You may have your own theory. The great thing about Christians is we have someone to blame it on. You don’t. It’s your own fault.
Okay, now… So sin enters the world. Adam and Eve commit the first sin according to Christian theology and then this is where we find out why we are so messed up. So here’s what happens next. “Then the man and the wife heard the sound of the Lord God as we was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” And here’s what they did, “And they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” I could put it in, “That God created.” So they’re hiding from God in God’s garden. This isn’t smart but you know what? When you screw up, you do un-smart things. Here’s what you do. This is why this is so brilliant, whoever wrote this. I think it’s inspired. It doesn’t matter.
This is ancient, ancient, ancient person pinpointed the fact that when we do something wrong, we hide. We hide. We hide from ourselves. We hide from the people around us because of guilt and because of shame. We hide. And we hide in the most obvious places and then when we get caught, we say what? “I’m… “
Yeah, it’s not a trick question. We say, “I’m sorry.” And no one believes us and they shouldn’t, because you’ve been doing this for eight years and the only reason you said you’re sorry is because you got what?
And you know what you’ve been doing the whole time before you got caught? You were hiding. You were hiding you or you were hiding something. This is what we do when we mess up. We hide until we’re caught and then here’s what happened next. “But the Lord God called to the man.” I love this. In fact, maybe the reason you’re watching today or listening today is for this just one part. The rest of my message may be irrelevant to you. When Adam and Eve screwed up, God went looking for them. Now they’ve really… They just messed up in a big way. They messed all of us up. This was the worst sin ever, okay? Ever. This is like the worst sin ever.
And God went looking for Adam and Eve. God is looking for you and He’s looking to you put you over His knee. He’s looking for you because He loves you and when you read the rest of this story that becomes obvious. Okay, but the Lord God called the man, “Where are you?” He knew. He answered, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid.” “Why are you afraid?” “Because I was naked,” which meant I knew I had done something wrong. I felt shame, so I hid. And He said… God said, “Who… ” ‘Cause God knew that there was a, ‘Who,’ involved. “Who told that you were naked?” In other words, “Who told you you were guilty? Who told you to feel shame? How did you figure this out? Who told you? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
And Adam said, “Yes, I did. And I take full responsibility for my actions. Do with me as you will but leave Eve out of it. She is innocent.”
Now that’s what he should have said. Now, this is so interesting for I tell you what really happened. If you’re not laughing, you’re going, “Why is everybody laughing?” Because…
We all were raised in Sunday School. It’s okay.
Here’s the thing. This is so huge. This is why this literature… Oh my gosh… The very first thing the first two people in the world did after they sinned was blamed somebody else. The very first thing they did after they got caught was what you tend to do and I tend to when I get caught. They blamed. Here’s what really happened. The man said, “The woman that you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” In other words… Okay, hang on, hang on… “God, this is your fault and this is her fault. So you guys get together. You work it out and then you apologize to me. And maybe if I’ve cooled off a little bit by the time you guys come to me after you’ve got it all worked out, I’ll be gracious enough to forgive God and Eve because this is not my fault.”
Now, here’s the interesting thing about this statement. It was true. It just wasn’t the whole truth. Now, listen to me. This is what we do. In our past where things fell apart, whether it was financially, relationally, romantically, academically, whatever it was, whatever it was. We all wanna tell a story that’s mostly true. We just don’t tell the whole truth and after you tell your story that’s 90% of the truth long enough you start to believe it’s the whole story and you hide. But if you don’t own your part of your own history you will lay the groundwork for undermining your own future. Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate. It’s not my fault.” This is true, it’s just not the whole truth. So here’s what I want you to hear me talk. This is so important. I really can’t even exaggerate how important this is. Okay? If you don’t pause and take responsibility for your part and your history. That part of your history that has caused you to have to start over, you will drag it with you into your future no matter how small it is, no matter how insignificant it is and ultimately you will undermine your own happiness.
Here’s the deal. You cannot blame your way into a better future. You can blame your way into the future. You cannot blame your way into a better future. More to the point, blame enables us to smuggle our issues into our future. Blame enables us to smuggle. You know what I mean by smuggle? It’s like if nobody knows about it and I don’t have to confess it and everybody feels sorry for me when I kinda give them the back row story, then I can keep my part tucked in my pocket and I can carry my part into the future. Blame allows you to smuggle your dysfunction, your habit, your poor relationship skills, your poor decision making skills, your unresolved daddy issues and mommy issues. Blame allows you to smuggle your stuff into your own future. That’s why it’s deadly. That’s why you just can’t do it. That’s why before you start over or as you begin thinking about starting over, you’ve gotta stop and ask some really difficult questions.
What was my part? And you’ve got to own it. And the last little statement I’ll give you is this: Blame sets us up for a repeat performance. Doesn’t it? ‘Cause your blame allows you to smuggle your past into your future, which sets you up to do exactly what you did last time. Even though what you did last time may seem very inconsequential to you. There you are again. There you go again.
Now here’s the thing. I’m gonna give you a little exerciser to do. Here’s the thing, look. Owning your part of your past. Listen… Let me be real clear. Owning your part of the past, here’s what happens, it drops the temperature of your emotions. And as the temperature drops you gain clarity and you can’t make great decisions about your future without clarity.
As long as you’re blaming, as long as you’re hiding, as long as you’re smuggling. There is an energy, there a tension, there’s an unresolved thing and I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I’m telling, it is gonna impair your ability to see clearly into your own future as you make the next round of decisions. It just is. It thwarts and it distorts your ability to make decisions.
Now Jesus said something so profound, it’s one little statement that if you’ve read the sermon on the mount, you’ve read right by it, but this is so profound. I think there’s so much packed in this little phrase. Here’s what He said. He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” In other words, there is a relationship between purity and clarity. There is a relationship between purity and clarity. And the purer your heart is, the cleaner your heart is, the more work you’ve done to clean out the junk, to get rid of the cobwebs, to get rid of the stuff you’re hiding, to get rid of the stuff you’ve never owned up to, to get rid of the stuff that you’re afraid to admit. Because if I admit this, and I understand this more than you think… If I admit my part, I can’t stay as mad as I’ve enjoyed being mad. If I own my part that means I’ve just taken a way of a little bit of what I blamed him for and her for and them for. And if I begin to own my part, then I can’t stay as angry about their part. That’s what I mean.
The temperature begins to drop and you begin to see clearly and you’ll make better decisions. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they see God.” And as long as there’s something that you’re hiding… As long as there is impurity in your thinking or your past or again, your transparency. You lack the clarity you need to ensure that next time is better than last time. So this is a really, really big deal.
So, I want you to think about this today. Here’s what I’d love for you to do. I want you to go home and I want you to get a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil or whatever and I just want you to draw a circle. And this circle represents… This is the sphere of blame. This is the circle of blame. This is everything that contributed to the fact that you gotta start over. And I want you to take whatever you’re riding with and I want you to draw a slice that represents your part. Now, in other words, you may say, “Hey! It’s 50-50 or half my fault and half her fault.” Nobody does this. There’s no story there. This isn’t a good story. “It’s half of it’s my fault and her part.” This isn’t what we do. “Maybe 25%… 75% of it was his fault, my company, my boss, my teacher and then 25% of it. Okay, I’ll own 25% of it.” Nobody does that either, honestly, unless you just are an incredible person. Here’s what it usually looks like… It’s kinda like this.
“She was an idiot. Now I might’ve had something to do with the problems.”
“My entire industry is screwed up. Now I didn’t follow… Okay, I might’ve had my deal.” Here’s the thing. This is huge. To make peace with your past, to move on without your past dragging you down, to make peace with your past. You make peace with your past by owning your piece of your past. Now it’s cute, but it’s bigger than cute. It’s huge. It’s life changing. You make peace with your past. That is, you resolve your past before you move into the future, by owning, recognizing, embracing, admitting, bringing it front and center, your piece of your past, your piece of the equation. The part that you contributed to, that has caused you to have to start over. Now I don’t wanna let you off too easy. I know you’re smart, but I wanna talk for five… Four and a half minutes or so about this. Because I think I’ve heard every story and every version of story. And I’ve sat with people and cried my eyes out. I’ve gone home and tried to explain to Sandra the what she said and we’ve both just cried. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories.
But I am telling you… The more painful this is, the less likely it is that you will ever recognize this. The more extreme your story is, the less likely it is that you will ever come to grips with your part. The bigger and the more emotional your story, the less likely it is that you’ll pause long enough to realize and recognize the role that you played. And regardless of how small it is or how small it was, if you drag it around with you it would begin to undermine your future. So you’ve got to own it. Before you start over, you got to own it. So let me give you some examples of exactly I am talking about because these are subtle, these are difficult, these are emotional and honestly, they’re embarrassing. And I think the embarrassment factor is one of the reasons we are so hesitant to go… I did have a part to play and how all of that ended up. So let me just give you some of these real quick. Here’s one:
I had a feeling something wasn’t right, but I was afraid to dig around and discover the truth. Because I had already made up my mind, that’s what I wanted to do. There was something in the back of my mind, there was a little bit of an unsettled feeling, I had a feeling he wasn’t, I had a feeling she wasn’t, I had a feeling, I just… I kind of knew, but I’d gotten so locked in on him, or her, or them, or that opportunity that I just got tuned out, through the voice of reason, I kind of knew, but I ignored that still small voice. I kind of ignored my conscience because I didn’t really want to find out that it wasn’t a good idea. And so I went forward anyway. You got to own now that. That was your part.
Your last debacle may have been completely avoided if you had paid attention to that voice. That even in that moment you knew, “I should probably call and do a background check. I should probably follow, but I’m afraid to know because it may undermine what I’ve already decided I wanna do. People I trusted warned me, but I wouldn’t listen.” When your mama was… You just shut down on the inside, but you knew your mama was right. That was your part. People you trusted, friends warned you, people tried to get you to read things, or, “Hey have you seen this guy,” they tried and you just shut them out. And yet it turned out that they were right, and turned out they weren’t what they said they were gonna be and the company wasn’t… But come on you had a part. I saw my brother’s career and I saw my sister, she married this guy. My brother-in-law had it going on. And I just saw everybody going on. And so, honestly, the reason I took on all that debt, the reason I leased that, the reason I bought that house, the reason, the reason, the reason… If I’m just perfectly honest, I can blame the economy and, yeah, I lost my job in the middle. I could blame all of that, but the real reason I’m carrying this debt, is I looked around and it looked like everybody was getting ahead, and I was jealous. I have to own that.
It was just lust, pure and simple. It’s embarrassing to admit this. I’m a grown up. I should know better. It’s not like I’m just going through puberty or anything, but it was just… It was lust. And I said, “Oh, it’d work out.” And I knew my Christian background and I knew what I’d been raised to believe, and I gave my parents all these financial excuses, but the truth is, the reason it went the way it went, it was just good old-fashioned lust.
And, yeah, it turned out he had issues or she had issues, but that’s their part. My part is I could have said no. I could have exercised self-control and I didn’t, and I’m ready to own that.
I should have left, but I was embarrassed. I mean, I should have left. I should have walked out. “I should have picked up my purse and my keys and I should have walked out, but I was just embarrassed. I should have told them, “Guys, not me,” got in my car and gone home, but I was just too embarrassed. I should have called a cab.” You know what? It’s true. I can make all the excuses in the world as to why I was there and why I went the next day, but the truth is, I could have gotten out of that situation, but I chose to stay, and it’s my fault, and I’m gonna own it, because I could have left, but I just was too concerned about what everybody in that group thought about me.
I kept telling myself, “I could handle it.” I kept telling myself, “I can handle this. I can handle this. I can handle this,” but the truth is, it was handling me, and I lied to myself. I lied to myself. I lied to myself.
To make peace with your past, to make sure you don’t drag it in to the future, you have to own your peace of the past, and it’s embarrassing, and it’s emotional, and it’s difficult. And I warn you, it’s gonna take the energy out of your story, but it’s gonna bring the temperature down, and you’re gonna gain clarity you’ve never had before about your own future.
So, if next time is gonna be better than the last time, then you’ve got to own your part of what went wrong last time. That’s the only way forward. So, I want you to go home today. I want you to draw that circle. Some of you, you’re in a second marriage already, and it’s starting to feel a little bit like the first one. You need to draw a circle. You’re in a dating relationship number, you’ve lost count, okay? And then all of a sudden, you’re wondering. You need to draw a circle. Some of you at work, it’s like you finally got this opportunity. You need to draw a circle. You need to draw a slice of the pie. You need to ask yourself the question, “What role did I play last time?”
And here’s what you need to do… ‘Cause you’re not gonna want to do this. You need to write it down. And let me promise you, it’s gonna happen when you write it down. As soon as you write down, something that goes in that slice, here was my responsibility, here’s the part I played, you’re gonna think of something else. And then, you might even think of something else. And the more you write, the temperature’s gonna come down. You’re gonna see clearer. You’re gonna see clearer than you’ve seen in a long time. Your story’s gonna begin to lose it’s energy, but you are preparing for the next time around.
Don’t smuggle the past into the future. Own it. Here’s the good news. Next time, next time, next time, it really can be better than last time, but not simply because you want it to be, but because you’re gonna plan for it to be, and you plan for it to be, by owning it.