Who did this to you?

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him,

“Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked?

Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:9-13

In the early years of their marriage, Femi and Tolu were quite an item. Their colleagues who were single eyed them with envy and quietly prayed that their own future homes would witness the bliss exemplified by the couple’s union which seemed to have been tailor-made from heaven. Their married friends desired to have whatever formula the twain used to have such a happy home. But four years into the relationship, life began to happen to Tolu and Femi. It filtered to Tolu’s ears that her husband who, up until then, doted on her and gave no room whatsoever for suspicion, was having an affair with her very close friend. In time, what was initially a secret blew open. Tolu was devastated. She wanted out. But family and friends intervened and encouraged them to go for counseling sessions to iron out their differences. Their first session with the counselor was stormy.

Asked why he did what he did, Femi wasted no time bursting out,

“I never thought I could ever commit adultery. But the last one year has been tough on me, no thanks to my wife. She returns late from work, sometimes too late and too tired to even cook me a decent meal, talk less of performing her conjugal obligations. As soon as she puts off her work clothes, she takes a shower and does not just sleep off, she almost immediately begins to snore. Our sex life has nosedived and sometimes, for upwards of three straight weeks, nothing happens between us because she is always pleading tired. I just could not take it anymore. And when her friend kept showing up looking so seductive at the times my wife would still be at work, I just could not help myself.”

When it was her turn to speak, Tolu could not hide her rage,

“You ungrateful bastard! Was it not you who made me take up this new job because of the higher prospects and the attendant emoluments? Were you not the one drumming it in my ears that we could use more money and so should not miss the opportunity since you haven’t had a promotion since we got married? So, now it’s my fault that more money means a greater demand on my time and energy? And that now gives you the liberty to start ‘shagging’ my friend? You should both be ashamed of yourselves!”

The blame game. From the biblical account, it has been around since the creation of man. It was not so much the eating of the forbidden fruit that led to the fall of man and his estrangement from God as was man’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the infraction. The instruction was clear. Do not eat of a particular fruit. If you do, there will be consequences. Then one day, another occupant of the garden strolled in and regaled Adam and his wife with stories of how attractive and sweet that particular fruit was and the mouth-watering benefits of eating it. He first sold the dummy to the woman and the woman became the fruit evangelist to her husband. Forget the Sunday School fib that the man had gone to work in the garden when the serpent came calling. The Bible does not in any way justify such position. According to the passage, “… she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)

When it was accountability time, Adam’s reaction was prompt; “the woman you gave me made me do it”. In one sweeping statement, he blamed both the woman and God who gave her to him (as if he knew nothing of the transaction!) Asked what she knew about it, Eve wasted no time in heaping the blame on the serpent! Interrogating the situation further, it becomes evident that Adam was the real culprit in the sense that he was the first person to have received the instruction not to eat that particular fruit. So the responsibility for that instruction being kept was primarily his! Nowhere in the narrative are we told that he ever raised any objection when the serpent came with its own antithetical proposition to God’s instruction. But when it was time to take responsibility, Adam chickened out. Mankind has been in a perpetual rollercoaster of the blame game ever since.

Why do we find it more convenient to blame others for our misdemeanours? It is essentially because we hate having to accept responsibility for our failures and dysfunctionalities. An awful team player always finds fault with other team members who must always be blamed for a collective error. A drinking husband blames his nagging wife. An adulterous wife blames her philandering husband. A student refuses to study at the appropriate time. He fails his examinations and blames the lecturer for being unusually tough!

We often refuse to accept responsibility for foibles because we are afraid of consequences. So we find it convenient to, like Adam, hide behind a finger that we point in another direction! What we however fail to realize is the fact that no man has actually fallen until he says that someone else pushed him down. Blaming others for our failures, moral or professional, or our state in life is actually a manifestation of a patent lack of self-control that surrenders the driver’s seat of our lives to other people’s teleguidance.

In habitually blaming others, a leader actually, albeit unwittingly, becomes the number one saboteur of his own greatness.

The seed of greatness is sown in the soil of vision and responsibility.

Face up to your fallibility. Instead of passing the buck, be willing to admit when you have messed up. As long as you can find someone to blame, you never see the need for change, talk less of making necessary amends. In time, nobody respects your leadership.

What great leaders do when they have erred is to admit and confront the error, deal with it, make peace with all concerned, recover lost ground by rectifying the error and turning it into power. As the popular saying goes, “if it’s going to be, it’s up to you”!

The next time someone asks, “Who did this to you?”, stand in front of a mirror. The answer stares you in the face!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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