Those three words, when used in that order, create perhaps the most powerful phrase in the English language. It’s also a phrase that we don’t hear very often—most of the time, people seem to be more focused on someone else’s shortfalls than on their own.
I was in the grocery store this past weekend, doing one of those between-payday “bare essentials” grocery runs. I don’t trust computers, so I was watching the monitor like a hawk while the young man on the other side of the belt scanned my purchases. One item was a pound of butter—the real stuff—which caught my attention when it rang up at $3.99. I thought for sure that the shelf tag said $3.79. I pushed the issue, and the young bagger at the checkout went to investigate. Sure enough, the price was $3.99, and I was left with very few options. I could have just shut up, growled and grudgingly paid the way-too-high price of a pound of butter. I could have argued that the young bagger was mistaken, or that the shelf tag had been switched after I had looked at it. I could have angrily refused to pay that price for butter, and faced Sharon empty-handed when she was wanting to prepare a recipe that required real butter, and no substitutions. I considered all those options for a fraction of a second, and in fact was probably still considering them when it slipped out of my mouth: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I apologize for holding up the line.”
Some of the shoppers in line looked at me as though I had antlers. The young packer that was the bearer of the bad news was prepared to defend himself, and for a moment he looked perplexed and bewildered—he expected me to challenge him, and to make a scene. He was caught off-guard by my simple, basic and heartfelt apology. Apparently, it’s not the sort of response that is typical among today’s grocery shoppers.
Our generation has become so accustomed to blame-shifting that we’re almost always left stunned when someone actually takes responsibility for their actions. Even when we hear someone say “I did this, and it was wrong,” we expect the next word to be “but,” followed by some cheap excuse designed to shift the focus away from them.
Blame-shifting is as old as mankind. Adam demonstrated it in the Garden of Eden, by attempting to shift the blame for his own disobedience to “the woman that you gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12). He didn’t just try to blame Eve, he actually tried to shift the blame to God, because He had given Adam the woman.
Given that history lesson, I suppose that we shouldn’t be terribly surprised at the supposed “rebuttal” offered by Presidential legal counsel reacting to the report sent to Congress by Kenneth Starr. Basic, undisciplined, fleshly human nature always reverts automatically to the “I have sinned, but…” blame-shifting mode. Clinton’s legal background naturally adds to the mix, creating carefully-worded statements referred to as “apologies,” but devoid of any genuine repentance and loaded with blame shifting maneuvers. If Clinton were to really admit to and apologize for his actions, he would be confessing to the crimes charged to him by the Starr report—crimes that very well may cost him his Presidency. It’s apparent that Clinton believes that he has nothing to lose by continuing to lie to the American people—and he may be right. His credibility is already shot, nobody trusts him, and even his most ardent supporters are distancing themselves. Clinton has set himself up for impeachment, and no matter how much he tries to blame-shift, it is an undeniable fact that he’s been caught in the web of immorality, cover-up, and lies that he himself has spun.
I’d like to be able to look you in the eye and tell you that I’ve always been as quick to apologize and accept the blame for my actions as I was in the grocery store last weekend. I’d like to, but if I did, It would be a lie. Just like Bill Clinton, I tend to default to the blame-shifting mode. I’ve learned the hard way that lies beget lies and it’s best to confess your sin, repent of it, and put it behind you. Sin feeds on lies, and if you keep feeding sin, it can and will take on a life of it’s own—and eventually, it will consume you.