Let It Begin With Me

When we consider all of the hostility and conflict in our land, what do you think is the main cause? I am sure we could come up with a multitude of reasons. However, I believe one of the greatest causes of strife is this attitude; it is not my fault, I am not responsible.

If you asked Joe Biden today why our nation is divided and there is so much violence, he would quickly respond, “Donald Trump.” On the other hand, if you asked Donald Trump the same question, he would undoubtedly respond, “The Democrats.” Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear politicians admit they have made mistakes and that they take responsibility?

This same issue exists in marriage. Best-selling author Henry Cloud writes about this in his book Boundaries in Marriage. He recalls a therapy session with Caroline and Joe, a couple who sought counseling because they couldn’t stop arguing.

When prompted to explain why they argued so much, Caroline said it was because Joe was angry all the timegets mad at her, and is so mean.

Dr. Cloud responded by swinging his head over to Joe. “Why do you get so mad?” he asked.

“Because she always tries to control me and my life,” Joe responded immediately.

Dr. Cloud then whooshed his head towards Caroline, sensing he was about to witness “a game of Ping-Pong.”

“Why do you try to control him?” he asked Caroline.

“Because he is so into his own things that I can’t get his time or attention,” she replied.

On and on it went. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Neither took ownership of their actions or reactions. It was always because of the other person. 

Dr. Cloud “longed for Joe to say, for example, ‘I get angry at her because I’m too immature to respond to her more helpfully. I’m deeply sorry for that and need some help. I want to be able to love her correctly no matter what her behavior is. Can you help me?’”

Does this sound familiar? This is at the heart of most relational conflicts. It is not my fault. This is why Dr. Cloud believes that blame is the essence of character flaw.

Author Gary Thomas has this to add:

“I have a theory, behind virtually every case of marital dissatisfaction lies an unwillingness to admit our self-centeredness. Couples do not fall out of love so much as they are unwilling to humbly acknowledge they have shortcomings as a spouse. Sin, wrong attitude and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and, eventually, erasing the once lofty promise in the throes of an earlier and less polluted love.”

Jesus gives thoughtful insight regarding this issue in the Sermon on the Mount:

And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mathew 7:3-5)

Jesus is telling us that we have a propensity to easily point out the flaws in the lives of others, when we are so blind to the major shortcomings in our own lives. This is particularly true in marriage.

What do you think would happen if two people who recognized their marriage was deteriorating and moving toward divorce, were both willing to humble themselves and say, “This is on me. I am the problem, I am at fault. I will no longer point the finger at my spouse. I am going to focus on my shortcomings and where I have failed in this marriage.”

What do you think might possibly happen?

Someone recently shared with me the lyrics of a song performed by Vince Gill. The opening lyrics are, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

As we go through this life, we will always have conflict in our relationships. As we seek peace and reconciliation, we must be willing to “let it begin with me.”

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author


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