Riots and Blame – Fighting the Past vs Moving into the Future

August 23, 2017

For more than 30 years I served in the role of counselor, at the church I pastored and at the college I administered. There is one secure and sane principle in dealing with people who are having problems with their past or someone else’s past. That is to redirect their focus and get them move into the future.

The past can be a lesson to us, but as long as we continue to live there, we sabotage our future by expending energy and time on that which we cannot change.

“Time waits for no man,” or so we are told. The passages of time click relentlessly along without regard to the history that it records. It does not stop to correct things or to evaluate or to judge if the events going by are good or bad. It just rushes past oblivious to the fate it encompasses.

But people, we homo-sapiens, do not seem to understand this phenomenon, and so we stop, judge and try to alter the past to accommodate our future. Not a bad thing as it underscores lessons we needed to learn, but not a good thing if we continue to fight the battles of the past. You cannot change the outcome of the past. You can only learn from it and change the inevitability of the path ahead. That is where our main focus should be.

Blaming our present on the past is useless. Blame always removes responsibility from us and shifts it to some other cause, other people, past history, circumstances or situations. Blame is the shifting of responsibility from the present to the past. It accomplishes nothing.

One of the great lessons in my life was my father’s insistence that I give up all excuses for failure. Success is a path through difficulty, surrounded by other people, but ultimately found in personal responsibility and a sense of power over my own life. To blame anyone for anything was to divert my attention from the present and the possibilities of the future.

Blame is the results of shame. Shame is a bad feeling about myself because of what I am. If I give other people the power to define me, then I allow them to control my destiny. Shame must always be rejected. Guilt, on the other hand, is a bad feeling about myself for what I have done. Guilt can be resolved by repentance and turning from bad behavior to productive behavior. Shame cannot be resolved because it is an assumption of what I am and it makes others responsible for me. Shame must be rejected. I am what I am because of who I am and no one can destroy that.

Whole groups of people in our day have decided to stop moving forward and to stop to blame their plight on the past. We blame our condition on race, economic level, social injustice, the government or our third-grade teacher. The difference between success in life or failure is most often our focus on who is responsible for me and my condition. If we live in a shame based world and blame others, then we are losers. It is inevitable. We stop to blame and stay there waiting for someone, somewhere to resolve my issues. Regardless of the disadvantages you have faced, you will not get past them as long as you wallow in them.

Group conflict can easily enter an escalating spiral of hostility marked by polarization of views into black and white, with comparable actions viewed in diametrically opposite ways: “we offer concessions, but they attempt to lure us with ploys. We are steadfast and courageous, but they are unyielding, irrational, stubborn, and blinded by ideology”.

It is widely believed that intergroup and intragroup hostility are (at least to some degree) inversely related: that “there is, unhappily, an inverse relationship between external wars and internal strife”. Thus “in politics, for example, everyone can get an extraordinarily comforting feeling of mutual support from their group by focusing on an enemy”. Freud described a similarly quasi-benign version, whereby “it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other like the Spaniards and Portuguese, for instance…[as] a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression, by means of which cohesion between the members of the community is made easier”. The harder version of the theory would suggest that “pent-up sub-group aggression, if it cannot combine with the pent-up aggression of other sub-groups to attack a common, foreign enemy, will vent itself in the form of riots, persecutions and rebellions.” –  Wikipedia

As long as a person or a group feels helpless because of someone else or something else, nothing can change. The victim is the victim of their own illusion. They are stuck in the blame they assign to others. The problem is, the others blamed, real or imagined, cannot effect change. It is the resentment and identity of blame that is the real problem. For progress to be made, the person doing the blaming has to stop the process and reject the blame and move forward without it. Blame is the anchor that hold us to a shame based identity.

Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the KKK, White Power, and a host of other extremist groups have entrenched themselves in a victim role and presume that by enhancing the blame of others they will somehow solve the problems they face. But whether it is an individual or a group, the same principles apply. No one, outside of yourself can affect a solution to your identity or solve your problem. You have to do it yourself not by blame but by productive work.

As long as the past is the excuse, the future cannot be successful. That is the cosmic principle of success. Lessons can be learned from the past, but progress has to be made in the present.

You are your own key to the future.