This past weekend I was at a retreat, and during some free time there was horseback riding offered, which my family and I decided to do. As we headed out, there was a wrangler at the head of the line, and then there was one person between her and me in the third spot. As we were riding, the person in front of me was very concerned with her horse getting too close the wrangler's horse and kept pulling back on her reigns rather unnecessarily. Rather than letting her horse do what he wanted to do as a trained trail horse, she wanted to keep a tight reign on him.
As we kept going and started climbing up a hill, the wrangler's horse either got spooked, or just acted up, and turned and jumped. This caused the person in front of me, who was already too tight, to start pulling back on her horse to try and get away, but then rather than stopping, she kept pulling back on the reigns, and pulling back, and pulling back.
If you are familiar with horses, you know that pulling back forces them to go backward, and so the more she pulled, the more the horse went backward and the faster he started going. Even though the other wrangler who was riding next to us was yelling at her to stop and let go of the reigns, she didn't stop. This then caused the horse to get into a position he couldn't sustain and to fall over backwards, which then threw her out of the saddle, and fortunately to be able to get out of the way as the horse then rolled over the same way she had fallen. She was a little dirty and sore, but escaped what could have been a series accident.
As this was happening, I quickly pulled back and to the right on my horse to get him out of the way, but then let up and he settled down and we stopped and stood where we were. This is not to praise the way I handled it, because if I had been where she was perhaps things would have gone differently, and I would have reacted differently. It's always really easy to say "If I would have been there, I would have done X" because you don't know. I did trust my horse to do what it needed to do once we were clear of the immediate danger.
But, it's what happened afterwards that is the point of this story, because rather than taking any blame on herself for pulling back on the reigns forcing the horse into the situation she got into, instead she blamed the horse. It was the horse that acted up, it was the horse that bolted, and she said she's had horses act up before but she doesn't put up with it (she told a story of a horse biting her to which she slapped it on the head and it never did it again).
After the next group to ride came back, everyone else wanted to know who rode that horse and if they had any problems. Of course they didn't because what happened was first of all a fluke, and secondly it was never the horse's fault. The horse did what the rider was telling him to do, and never should have been blamed in the first place. But isn't that our nature?
Rather than taking responsibility, we look for who else might be responsible, who else can we blame. And I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. After my first year in my current church, I said that I could no longer lay responsibility for things at the feet of the former pastor because now it was getting to be all my responsibility. There are still lots of things I want to blame others for, but the truth is I am just as culpable now.
But even worse, the blame game not only shifts responsibility, it also shifts, or stops, the ability to try and do something different or to learn from our mistakes. Until we learn to admit our mistakes, and not blame others, then we can never learn from what we did wrong, and use that to make us better at whatever it is that we want to do.