Last blog, I declared war on shame. In this article, I am shining the light on shame’s evil cousin… fault, who also has children named accusation, blame and criticism. This family is working together to destroy you and your family.
Just last week while we were all in the kitchen making dinner, I came home to my oldest two daughters arguing about what happened and how the other was a fault for the real or imagined mistreatment they had received from the other. After a few minutes of hearing the plaintiff and the defendant, I had heard enough and informed them that I did not care who was at fault. I wanted to know which one was the responsible one and which one is the mature one.
My oldest stepped up and apologized for her treatment toward her younger sister. The younger sibling then also apologized and took responsibility for her poor behavior. Feeling very convicted, I even jumped in and asked forgiveness for my behaviors two nights prior. Silence and peace followed. Just like that – all the fault and blame ended! We went about our evening with an enjoyable dinner.
What is fault anyway? It is kind of a funny word to even speak. I could not find a good definition, so I will make up my own. Fault is the process of forcefully placing responsibility on another person and is generally done with great energy and emotion.
Like I explain to the couples I work with, I am not interested in who is at fault. I am interested in who is the responsible one and the mature one in the relationship. Who is going to step up and grow up? Little boys and girls blame and use fault. Adults take responsibility.
Being in my own recovery and working with clients for over 10 years now,
I have seen a great deal of struggle for individuals to overcome this issue of placing fault on others as well as placing fault on themselves, which is the most toxic of the two, because it results in shame.
In recovery, you often hear, directly or overtly, from your therapist, spouse or group members that you are in this place due to your own poor choices. “It is all your fault.” Now, I understand the importance of this early in recovery in order to come out of denial. It is very powerful to begin to hear and understand this as well as take responsibility and ownership.
I like to think of responsibility as “the act of willingly owning your behaviors and taking on the burden to act to correct past mistakes.” It’s not about anyone placing anything on another with force. Even after someone takes responsibility, I have seen this continued burden of fault on the person by those who are still trying to hurt them out of their own hurt and even those who are trying to help them, as it is spoken and unspoken.
There is something very addictive and intoxicating about the use of fault. It is my opinion that there is a payoff for placing fault on others, and the payoff is that the one placing fault doesn’t need to change. As long as it is everybody else’s fault, they never need to change. Everyone else needs to change. The problem is that it’s a trap you can never get out of.
As the receiver on the other side of fault, it can be very threatening. Our natural human response to fault is to defend ourselves. It is so amazing to me that I don’t remember teaching my children how to use fault on others. They have watched me in their nurturing, or is it nature? Just like shame, it is all around us in every fabric of our families, media, government, culture and religion.
Karl Menniger (the late great psychiatrist, Harvard professor and author) wrote a book, Whatever Became of Sin. In this book, he talks about the loss of the word “sin” being used in our Western culture. It has been observed that even the law put into place by Congress stated that the President has to observe the National Day of Prayer each May; and for the last several decades, no American President has used the word “sin” in their speech.
Having grown up in the church, it’s my observation that the church has done a great disservice with the use of condemnation with thousands of messages to indicate “You are sinner!” I understand it has its place. However, the majority of the people I work with know their sin and their badness, which is not the problem. This has not been found effective in helping them get better. The problem is that they do not know their goodness. In all my years of practicing my faith, I do not ever remember hearing the message “You were born into sin…AND… it’s NOT your fault!” How freeing is that!?
This has been a huge revelation to me and to those I share it with. Now, this does not mean I can go and live a careless life of irresponsible behavior. We all have a free will, but I am responsible with what I do with this information now.
This message is not for just anyone, as it could be taken out of context. This message is for those good men and women who have done recovery work but are still burden by fault. This means you no longer have to live under this lie that has caused so much bondage in your life. TAKE OFF THE CHAINS AND SHACKLES OF FAULT! You have taken responsibility for your actions and have completed the steps… several times. It’s not your fault you were born into sin. You know your badness and have done your work. You are an adult and have taken responsibility. Move forward and live in the freedom of knowing and believing your goodness – the talents, abilities and gifts God has given you.
Finally, there is a reason your windshield is bigger than your rear view mirror! Most people who keep ending up in the ditch are constantly looking at the faults of their past. Stay out of the ditch by focusing on your windshield, your future, your goodness and who you are becoming, NOT your rear view mirror.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.