Moving Beyond Blame and Guilt – Action Rather Than Arguments
Racial and cultural conflicts have been a part of the American experience since people first inhabited the American continents. Those tensions grew more intense and costly as the diversity of interests in the continents grew and different people arrived with their own perspectives of what an idyllic life in the Americas should be. Millions have died in the centuries long history of this vast and great land. People continue to die today. The continued deaths and violence we experience are the ugly residue of past struggles and present short-comings. These blemishes tarnish the American dream and leave those of us who remain alive with a burden to understand and explain just how these tragedies and upheavals occur, even as progress and improvements are experienced and achieved.
John Perkins, a Christian minister devoted to working towards restorative efforts between people in racial conflict, believes that a major obstacle to healing and progress is the perpetual exchange of blame and guilt. I concur. Whether one watches television news or follows social media posts, there is no lack of statistical presentations “proving” who’s to blame for racial problems or other perceived issues in the nation, and who should feel guilty about them. When used for the purposes of assigning guilt or placing blame, the statistics are not helpful nor are the anecdotal references to wrongs committed of one people towards another. I am confident that as I am writing these thoughts, someone of a particular race has wronged someone else of another race. I am also certain that at the same time, others of various races are doing phenomenal work to help many different types of people. All the while, many of us are processing real hurts levied by an assortment of people – some like us, some not - as we also reflect upon having been helped and blessed in our personal histories by a variety of people who may or may not share our same background and identity.
My point is straightforward. There is plenty of blame to share and lots of guilt to own. However, if we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by endless discussions of guilt and blame, we will never make progress in experiencing repentance, forgiveness, restoration, healing and then progress. To achieve these outcomes, we move past guilt and blame and we must act. The actions necessary to make a difference are easy to understand, but costly and risky. These actions require long-term commitments to processes and full-fledged involvement in the lives of people that have no guaranteed pay-offs or results. These actions are built upon a foundation of love and call for those who really desire to see and bring about change for the better to lose their lives in the service of others. It is a call to lifestyle change, continual challenge, and perpetual inconvenience. It involves actions like volunteering, foster parenting, adopting, mentoring, Big Brother and Big Sister-ing, helping, holding, molding, traveling, staying awake for late night counseling, being bothered when you don’t feel like being bothered-ing, and countless other real-life actions that are within our grasp to engage.
That kid with no dad that you see each week in church – mentor him. You’re an empty-nester with time and money on your hands and miss the living sounds of children on your floors – consider foster parenting or adoption. You are appalled by the trouble you see in the neighborhood you pass by each day on the way to work and wish those people would “get it together” – contact your local city office and ask how you might be part of something positive to begin to make a difference for at least a part of that community. You wonder why those churches “aren’t doing anything” about the problems in the community – become part of one of those crazy new churches who are trying to make inroads in the hard places, but need people with wisdom, resources and expertise to help them. Begin to seek out what can be done rather than complain about what isn’t getting done.
These actions will invite possibilities for suffering, disappointment, hurts, frustrations and setbacks. They will also open the door for possibilities of transformation, relief, joy, satisfaction, comfort and victories. In the reality of this mixture of victories and losses, those who are truly courageous must shake off the fog of virtual lethargy. Let us rather choose to encourage each other to engage in real life opportunities and to apply our energies to making real differences in the lives of real people. We cannot change everything, but we can make a difference! We just can’t do it with no effort or for free.