Entries with tag responsibility .

The Beauty of Taking the Blame

One of my favorite home videos is of my little sister, Alexa, when she was about three years old. She is standing in front of a white wall with a red marker masterpiece on it that she has obviously drawn herself. From behind the camera, my mom is asking her who is responsible.

 

Well, my sister has every answer in the book, starting with the usuals: mom and dad, followed by yiayia and pappou. Then come the out-of-left-field answers: our great-aunt, our cousin’s wife, and even our other little sister (who was a newborn at the time).

 

It has to be one of my favorite home videos of all time. It’s so comical.

 

You know what’s not as comical? When you’re 23 and you find yourself doing the same thing.

 

For example, this week I’ve just been in a horrible mood, and I’ve found so many people to blame.

 

A friend.

 

A family member.

 

A co-worker.

 

A guy at the gym.

 

Someone I passed in the street.

 

(Seriously, these are all people that I’ve blamed).

 

It gets just as ridiculous as Alexa blaming her artwork on a newborn child.

 

It’s all too easy to fall into a pattern where I blame everyone else for the way that I am feeling, for my actions, and for my behaviors.

 

What I often forget when I find myself in a place like this is that, no matter the situation, I am in charge. And if I’m going to take charge of my reactions, then I have to live with the blame also.

 

Of course, there are circumstances around us that are beyond our control, but what is within our control is how we respond to them. So sometimes when something that someone says bothers me, I have to be aware that what they are saying is bothering me because of something inside me. What makes me react negatively is not exactly what has happened, but things that have happened to me that make me upset.

 

So, no, I wasn’t actually mad at any of these people. No one did anything specifically to hurt me or to anger me, but because of the mood that I was in, everything bothered me. As much as I’d like to place the blame on anyone else, I know that the blame is my own.

 

Where does this leave me? Well, it leaves me more dependent on Christ for one. Dependent on the fact that He will take care of me and lead me out of the depths of whatever sadness I find myself in. Dependent on the fact that He is constantly at work in my life, working on making me a more well-rounded person, someone who is more like Him.

 

I mean, the video would have been much less funny had my sister taken credit for her artwork. But at the expense of humor, taking the blame is something that we all need to work on.

 

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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Free to be Twenty-Three

As a newly minted twenty-three-year-old, I still feel like Taylor Swift’s description of being twenty-two is extremely relevant to me: “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical.” I thought about this song a lot towards the end of my time as a twenty-two-year-old, and the lifestyle that surrounds most people’s early twenties.

 

It seems like a lot of my friends (especially those who aren’t practicing Christians) “get to” (for lack of better words) make whatever decisions they want to make; decisions that I, as an Orthodox young woman, find myself thinking twice about.

 

Although I tend to think twice, I’m not purporting myself to be perfect; I don’t always practice good judgment and I make plenty of mistakes. It’s just that I don’t exactly do things on a whim because I like to take time to discern if my actions are serving only me, or if I am serving Christ through them.

 

Throughout my twenties, I’ve made a lot more decisions with myself in mind than I ever have before. I quit an internship because I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve been more honest about what and who I need in my life, and I’ve generally attempted to do things that I’ve wanted to do. And I’ll be honest, I don’t always think about the effects that these decisions have on others, or on my spiritual life (in other words, my whole life).

 

It’s always been hard for me to know if those were things that I needed to do, or simply things that I wanted to do. I’ve fought with myself a lot. Because I’m free to do what I want, but I always have to think, “Is this what I need?” or more specifically, “Is this what Christ wants?”

 

It’s a very thin line to toe sometimes. For example, the line between telling someone off and praying for that person. The line between having another drink or going home because I have church the next day. It’s very difficult to make the right decision. And it gets even more complicated when we talk about motivations: did I quit the internship because I was being self-serving or was I doing it because God was calling me somewhere else?

 

Sometimes, as harsh as this might sound, I know I make choices that are self-serving, that don’t draw me closer to God, and I am okay with admitting that and repenting for these things. What I’ve decided, though, is that I can’t beat myself up for doing the things that I want to do, but I do need to figure out the difference between self-serving choices and making decisions that make me a better, truer me (which, of course, always ends up being the decisions I make with Christ leading the way) .

 

Ultimately, my largest responsibility is to Him.


I’m not attempting to say that Christ doesn’t want us to live out our lives. In fact, He is so gracious as to give us the freedom to do so, mistakes and all. And we can thank Him for His grace in many ways: by surrounding ourselves with people who support and understand why we choose the things that we do, or by praying about what we do before we do it.

 

Yes, Christ wants us to sacrifice some things, as He did for us. Yet he doesn’t ask us to retract ourselves from the world and not enjoy the good things in life like friendship, laughter, and figuring out who we are. As twenty-somethings, we will make a lot of new decisions, and sometimes it might seem like we’re doing it just because we can. It doesn’t make us any less Christian.

 

It just means that we might have to refocus ourselves. To look towards Him, to maintain our responsibility to Christ and our Orthodox faith in the decisions that we make, and allow Him to guide us through the happy, free, confused, and lonely times that our twenties have to offer.

 

Image credits:

Depositphotos

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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Seeing the Man in the Mirror Clearly - Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is upon us, and we stand at the Gates of Great and Holy Lent. It happens every year, but it always seems to surprise me.

It’s also about this time that I make a bunch of resolutions about how I’m going to be super strict in keeping the fast, how I’m going to attend every service without fail, and how I’m going to learn how to walk on water by the end of the 40 days.

And inevitably, I fail at each of these.

But thank God because it keeps me humble.

Could you imagine what kind of monster I might become if I actually did all these things? Can you imagine what manner of pride I might be tempted by?

I may actually begin to think that my righteousness is my own doing.

I have a hard enough problem with thinking too highly of myself as it is, and I would do well to be more like the Canaanite woman we read about last week [link], recognizing how lowly I am, and how much I need God’s great mercy and benevolence.

We don’t always hear about the Canaanite woman due to the timing of Lent (sometimes she gets skipped), but I’m really glad that we do this year, because it has afforded us back-to-back opportunities to reflect on humility.

Humility, however, is often misunderstood.

If we aren’t careful, we can speak about humility as if it were synonymous with simply thinking that you’re a really awful human; but this isn’t right.

It isn’t humble to deny that you’re good at something when someone compliments you on a job well done. It’s obnoxious, and a lie.

If you’re good at painting, singing, thinking, playing football, underwater basket-weaving – at literally whatever – then it’s annoying when you deny it. Just say thank you (or better yet, thank God), and be done with it.

Humility is not a matter denying one’s skill and thinking of oneself to be the scum of the earth. Humility, rather, is an orientation of the heart: an orientation toward God rather than toward oneself.

This week, at the onset of Lent, the Church prepares us for our journey into the heart of repentance by setting before us two examples: the Pharisee and the Publican .

Christ tells us of the two men who go up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee’s prayer…well, it doesn’t really look like much of a prayer at all. It really looks more like a resume: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).

The Publican, on the other hand, won’t even look to heaven and prays, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

As we all know, it is the Publican, and not the Pharisee, who goes home justified in the sight of the Lord. It might be easy to look at the Publican’s example of humility and say, “See! He does think he’s scum! That’s what humility is!” But looking at him next to the Pharisee, I’m not sure it’s that easy.

For the Pharisee, it’s pretty clear that his righteousness comes from himself.

He is not like other men.

He isn’t unjust.

He isn’t like the tax collector.

He fasts and tithes!

And he takes great pride in all of this, and this is precisely his problem. His heart is directed toward himself and his accomplishments.

He is full of himself.

The Publican, on the other hand, exemplifies a heart directed toward God.

He doesn’t go on about what a terrible person he is. He doesn’t enumerate all the ways that he is the worst. Instead, quite simply, he sees himself clearly, declaring himself a sinner in relation to almighty God, Whom he asks for mercy.

The Publican has made room in his heart for God’s mercy by recognizing his sinfulness in relation to God. Conversely, the Pharisee does not have room in his heart to receive God’s mercy; he cannot be filled with God’s love because he is already full of himself and his own righteousness.

He doesn’t think he needs a savior, because he thinks he’s already saved himself.

The true nature of humility, then, is not a matter of seeing oneself as terrible so much as it is a matter of seeing oneself clearly, as a sinner before the face of God.

Too often, we are like the Pharisee, doing all that we can either to appear as righteous before God and others, or by justifying ourselves for every sin.

I’m sorry I yelled at you, but I was just getting really frustrated with how much you were saying my name.

I’m sorry I got mad, but I’m just really stressed with work.

We do this all the time because…well, let’s be honest. Because it is a terrifying to admit that you were wrong! It sucks to see yourself at fault, and to take responsibility for your mistakes!

​To see yourself at fault, to see yourself as standing before God and others as guilty is painful! It’s way easier to excuse our bad behavior than it is to simply say, “That thing I said was really awful. I shouldn’t have done it. Forgive me.”

This is why St. Anthony the Great said, “This is the great work of man: to always take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” It takes work because it is painful and humbling.

To see ourselves clearly is to be humbled before the face of God. It is to admit that we were wrong and to do the only natural thing: beg for mercy.

The problem with the Pharisee is that can’t see himself clearly, trying to present himself as already holy. But the Pharisee’s righteousness is such that it is born completely out of himself, and this is his sin.

Because the truth is that Pharisee actually probably was a pretty good guy; after all, he did a lot of righteous stuff that he’d be happy to tell you all about!

The reality is, too, I’m actually a pretty good guy. And I’m sure you are, too.

But this Lent, the Lord is asking us to be more than good guys, to renounce our own righteousness, to direct our hearts toward Him and to admit our lowliness before Him. Because, as we prepare for Lent, we’re not simply working on ethical self-improvement; we’re not trying to be “good guys” like the Pharisee.  We’re preparing to join Christ in the tomb, to reach out to Him as the only source of life. 

As Fr. Stephen Freeman has stated multiple, times, “Christ did not die in order to make bad men good – he died in order to make dead men live.” Realizing that starts by accepting the humility of the Publican.

Photo Credit:

Lent: spbda via Compfight cc 

Publican and Pharisee: Wikimedia Commons

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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