This being my first year as a third grade teacher, I’ve found there are several differences from the fourth graders I’ve taught over the last eleven years. The most glaring difference, one which tests my patience daily, is the constant tattling going on. Some are more guilty than others, but I consistently hear what someone else is doing wrong or how the tattler is being treated unfairly. Sometimes it’s all I can do to roll my eyes in exasperation and exclaim, “Here we go again!”
One interesting thing about all this tattling is how easily children learn to blame someone else for their mistakes. I don’t know if we humans do this naturally or not, but the instinct is there to find fault in everyone else but ourselves. I wish I could say this was a problem only for elementary age children, but the propensity to deflect blame seems to be gaining more prevalence in society today. I hear people blame their situation in life on everything from government to race, upbringing, lack of resources, or even gender. There’s even a “law of exposure” in psychology which basically states that what we’re primarily exposed to will affect how we behave and think.
While it’s true that our environment considerably impacts the way we live, it would be foolish to not accept responsibility for our own actions or lack thereof. In religious terms, the Bible is very clear that God will not allow us to blame others for our own choices. “So each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12) should be an eye-opening passage that brings to light the reality of the coming judgment of mankind. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) but he will return to judge (Matthew 25:31-46) and a litany of excuses will not release us from the bad things we have done with our life.
God was very specific that it is our works that determine how we’ll be judged. Once granted salvation through faith in his grace, we must all accept responsibility for the direction of our lives and use our circumstances, whether good or bad, to do what’s right and not make excuses. “God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:6-8).