By Douglas O’Brien, Lt. Colonel
Flip Wilson’s classic character Geraldine returned home after buying a new dress.
The Rev.: “Another dress? This is the third dress this week.”
Geraldine: “The Devil made me buy this dress. I didn’t want to buy no dress. The Devil kept botherin’ me.”
The Rev.: “How’d the Devil get you to buy the dress?”
Geraldine: “The Devil sneaked up behind me…and he shoved me in that door. I said, ‘Devil stop it, please.’ Then he shoved me over to where the dress was. I said, ‘cut it out Devil.’ He said, ‘you gonna buy that dress?’ I said, ‘I’m not buying no dress, Devil.’ And he pulled a gun. He threatened me and made me sign your name to a check.”
Flip Wilson said his comic female character was honest, frank and affectionate. Frank? Sure. Affectionate? OK. But honest? Really? When Geraldine explained that the Devil made her buy that dress, the Reverend responded, “I’m not goin’ for that. Every time you do something wrong you blame it on the Devil.”
Geraldine has plenty of company. Everybody remembers that Adam blamed Eve and that Eve blamed the serpent for their actions in the Garden. God understood they were to blame for their own actions.
Later generations used scapegoats—real goats in an attempt to get rid of their guilt. When goats no longer seemed adequate, individuals and even whole nations became substitute scapegoats. People just seem to be quick to point a finger at someone else.
But this blame game is actually a “poor strategy” says Peter Bregman writing for Psychology Today (April 9, 2013). People see through it; it weakens our self-esteem; it’s dishonest; it destroys relationships; it inhibits learning.
Certainly the Bible teaches that there is a real devil seeking to drive us away from God. But the Bible also teaches us about personal responsibility.
Some people may remember how popular President Harry Truman became for displaying a sign on his desk that said, “The Buck Stops Here.” For me the most wonderful example of someone accepting responsibility for his own mistakes was King David.
When the Prophet Nathan confronted David about his relationship with Bathsheba, David’s response was quick and profound: “I have sinned against the LORD.” In the face of that transparent honesty, Nathan spoke God’s forgiveness, “The LORD has taken away your sin” (2 Sam. 12:13 NIV).
And as it was for David, so it is for us when we are honest with God about who we are and what we have done.