It’s hard to take responsibility for our lives. In the very beginning of the Bible, there is a story that illustrates this deep truth.
The Forbidden Fruit
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and God tells them they can eat from any tree except one that is in the middle of the garden. After succumbing to temptation and some urging from a wily serpent, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. Here’s where the story gets interesting.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
When Adam and Eve realized they did something wrong, their first reaction was to hide. I think we are the same way. There’s something inside us that wants to avoid punishment and getting found out, so our first reaction is to NOT take responsibility (or even deal with the issue at all). However, this strategy doesn’t usually work. It just delays the inevitable.
He [Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Naked and Feeling Shame
The concept of nakedness in this story is an interesting one. There is a literal aspect to the nakedness—the story says Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. But there is a metaphorical aspect to the nakedness that is tied to shame. Nakedness has to do with exposure and vulnerability. When God first created Adam and Eve, the story says they were both naked and felt no shame.
At first, they were exposed and vulnerable with each other and with God, and they did NOT feel shame. Now, they are exposed and vulnerable with each other and with God, and they DO feel shame.
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:8-13).
When we are in trouble, our first reaction is to hide. When that doesn’t work, our second reaction is to blame. In this story, there is a lot of blame to go around. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Our initial reaction is to blame someone else and get the attention off ourselves. We think we can escape if someone else takes the fall.
This blaming strategy doesn’t work either. People (and God) can usually see right through it.
If hiding doesn’t work, and blaming others doesn’t work, what is the right course of action? It’s difficult, but the only thing that really works when we do something wrong is to take responsibility for our actions. Taking responsibility says it’s my fault. Taking responsibility says the reason for the problem has to do with me.
Taking responsibility feels bad at first. No one likes to be in trouble. No one likes to feel like they failed. But taking responsibility is ultimately the only thing that allows you to move forward in a positive direction. When something IS your fault, you have the power to make changes and do something different. Because of this, taking responsibility actually increases your power to change your situation. If the cause of the problem is something about you, you can do something different tomorrow and get a different result.
Do you struggle with taking responsibility for your life? How can we stop hiding and blaming others for our problems?