The old adage goes:
When you point your finger at someone, three more are pointing back at you.
It’s a fairly accurate statement but it doesn’t stop us from doing it. One of the easiest ways to distract people from our shortcomings is to point them out in other people.
- Politics: In recent weeks, I’ve watched at how Republicans have protected Roy Moore in Alabama and Democrats have protected Al Franken in Minnesota. Both sides’ approach? “Well, let’s see if that other group is going to want the same fate for their guy as they want for ours?” In their pointing of fingers, they are ignoring the horrible accusations against the one they support and just trying to get you focus on the accusations of the one you stand against.
- Rivalries: We just finished up college football rivalry week, and while the rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina may not be the most intense in the country, there is little love lost between the two fan bases. As USC fans threw trash onto Clemson players and Dabo Swinney got flagged for getting upset about it, a social media war began making blanket statements about stating that either all USC fans are trash-throwing troublemakers or Clemson fans would never ever do such. Depending upon who wins the rivalry game, one side boasts and the other side tells them they take it too seriously (and guess what, if the outcome would have been reversed, so would the comments have been). “We would never act like you are acting.” Unwilling to address “my” team or my fan base’s issues, I will just remind you of that one time when that one guy did that one thing and therefore stereotypes you all forever and always. But you have to forget that time when we acted the same way.
- Relationships: Of course, the safest defense mechanism of any relationship trouble is to sidestep your issues and blame the other person. We always seek to find a way to justify our actions. From the little child saying he only hit because he was hit first, to the adult saying she said what she said because he said it to her first, we never seek to grow up. From the first blame game in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:12-13), we really haven’t matured too far past it.
The easiest way to distract you from my issues is to remind you of someone else’s issues.
While it is easy, it is not effective. It may deflect the attention for a moment but not for long. At some point in my life, I must own up to my own decisions and can no longer blame other people, justify my actions on what has been done to me, or belittle my actions by comparing them to another’s.
If I truly want to obtain mercy, I need to confess my own transgressions (Prov. 28:13) and stop trying to sidestep the issue. I need to confess my fault to God (1 John 1:9) and to others (James 5:16). One day, we will all appear before God’s judgment (2 Cor. 5:10), and there will be no one nearby to whom we can point our fingers and blame.
Pointing fingers is pointless unless you are pointing to yourself.
Stop trying to get a free pass based on other’s choices. Grow up. Own up. Fess up. Maybe those are those three fingers pointing back our way.