After introducing myself, I asked the customary question, “What brings you here today?”
Her reply came with forceful resentment, “I don’t need to be here, that’s for sure.”
“So, why are you here,” I asked?
“Because my whole family believes I need to see a counselor. But, I don’t. They’re the problem, not me.”
Over the course of several sessions, I became intimately acquainted with the flaws in every member of her family. With amazing detail, this little old lady recounted episode after episode of what must have been every transgression ever committed against her. Here are a few unbelievable (yet true) examples. “You would be angry, too, if your grandchildren ran into the living room with muddy shoes like mine did on Aug. 3, 1982.”
“Of course, I can’t stand my daughter-in-law. She criticized what I was wearing on Jan. 14, 1978, after I had prepared such a nice meal for her” (recalling in exhausting detail every word spoken).
“Wouldn’t you be angry if your son sided with his father like mine did on Sept. 7, 1987? I still say the paint was the wrong color.” Needless to say, I became fascinated. This woman recounted to the actual day transgressions that had occurred 20 sometimes 30 years before.
Amazing. Equally amazing, she had no memory of positive or happy events. When I encouraged her to think about how she might share maybe a tiny droplet of responsibility, she would physically recoil and then recall yet another atrocity.
Did I help her? No. I couldn’t since she was never able to accept responsibility for herself. Everything was someone else’s fault. With such a history of blaming, the reason for the permanent scowl on her face became painfully obvious.
In one of his books, C.S. Lewis illustrates the tragic consequences of living a life of blame. A group of passengers is riding on a bus to heaven, but before they arrive in heaven they are routed through hell where they are told to depart the bus. In hell, angels plead with each individual to give up whatever is keeping them in hell.
C.S. Lewis observes an angel pleading with a woman to give up her anger. (I’ve wondered if she was the same woman I saw in my office.) She remembers in every detail every negative thing that has ever happened to her and with precision she justifies to the angel why she has a right to be angry and to blame those who have wronged her.
The angel continues to plead with her to give up her anger. As C.S. Lewis is watching this, he observes a curious thing. The woman is wearing a tiny bracelet around her wrist. This bracelet has a small chain attached to it which leads to a tiny speck on the ground. As the woman continues to hold on to her right to be angry, the bracelet around her wrist turns into a heavy chain, So she actually becomes immobilized by the chain. Then the speck at the end of the chain begins to grow. Eventually, C.S. Lewis recognizes the speck for what it is — a small monster. The monster grows and grows as the woman clings to her right to blame until eventually the monster is bigger than the woman. The angel continues to plead but to no avail. The monster finally devours the woman.
This story is a graphic illustration of what blame can do to an individual. It consumes and destroys its victims. Why? Blame ultimately makes you the object of your own resentments. Although a blamer’s favorite word may be “you,” pointing the finger of blame has a way of backfiring.
That’s why blamers are never happy. Sadly, blaming robs you of life. Unchecked, it’s like a monster that grows within you, immobilizes you, and ultimately devours you.
Not until we stop blaming will we start enjoying life.