The Boomerang Effect of Finger-Pointing
By Don Umphrey
(with scriptural citations from the NIV)
In his book Guilt: Where Religion and Psychology Meet, David Belgum recounts the story of a highly educated couple who had been married for 15 years. Their relationship had degenerated to the point of infidelity. They went to counseling and both could recite all the "jargon of psychology and marriage counselors' manuals." But it was to no avail and the counseling was terminated because each desired to reform the other but neither felt genuine remorse about his/her own shortcomings, failures and sins.
Finger-pointing, as demonstrated in the paragraph above, is an effort to hold others responsible for one’s own misdeeds and problems. It is nearly as old as sin itself, because it started in the Garden of Eden.
Wearing their new fig-leaf coverings after eating the forbidden fruit, neither Adam nor Eve repented or expressed regret. When confronted by God, Adam responded, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). Following this line of reasoning, God was to blame and so was Eve.
Have you ever blamed God for problems you brought on yourself?
Eve was more straight-forward with her answer, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13b). But like Adam, she was guilty of putting her own poor judgment ahead of what Blaming Godshe knew was God’s will for her.
(As an aside, a minister friend interpreted Adam and Eve’s actions in this way: Adam blamed God, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.)
Finger-pointing is a function of denial in that it prevents people from recognizing their own sins and addictions.
The Pharisees Were Famous for It
The Pharisees were so caught up in their own idea of religious truth, they failed to recognize that Jesus was God in the flesh. They even accused him of blasphemy (Luke 5:21) and of being in league with the devil (Matthew 9:34).
Jesus told this parable about a Pharisee and a tax-collector who went up to the temple to pray: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
Also tied to finger-pointing is this statement from Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
People in denial fail to recognize their own huge faults (the plank that obstructs their vision) without finding some minutia in someone else’s eye. It has been said, “If we have a forefinger pointed at someone else, we have three other fingers pointed at ourselves and a thumb pointed upward at God.”
Young Drunkard Blames Parents
As a part of my own downward journey due to alcoholism, I grew increasingly depressed and filled with anxieties. I went to a psychologist for help when I was about 25 years old. He was an atheist, well schooled in the blame-game. I bought into it.
I was told that I grew up in a dysfunctional home and that my problems could be traced back to my parents, particularly my mother. They were hurt by these unfounded accusations. As a “victim,” I wallowed in self-pity and drank even more. The truth was that my parents loved me and had given me many advantages in life.
Two years later I reached rock bottom and through the help of a friend I met in a mental hospital, I was finally able to come out of denial and take Step One: I admitted that I was powerless over alcohol, that my life had become unmanageable. Moving forward in the steps toward a God-centered life, I was able to realize that I had been guilty of finger-pointing and make amends to my mother and father.
What Is the Solution?
1) God's opportunity to work in our lives starts when we admit that we are like the tax collector discussed in Luke 18: 9-14. Take Step One.
2) People can learn a lot about themselves when they examine the faults they see in others. Romans 1:18-32 includes a catalog of the sins that may found in our society. This is followed by Romans 2:1, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
3) According to 1 Corinthians 11:29: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” of the Lord’s Supper. “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves."
Footnote: David Belgum, Guilt: Where Religion and Psychology Meet, Prentice Hall, 1963.
Copyright 2022 by Don Umphrey
“New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.
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