Taking Responsibility Too Far


And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. Genesis 34:2

            How much responsibility did Dinah assume for the rape she suffered? Probably a lot. Maybe she embraced all of it. After all, if she hadn’t given in to her curiosity to explore Shechem, she wouldn’t have been there to be preyed upon. It was probably hard to separate her part – and the predator’s part. She may have been in the wrong place but she didn’t go there to engage in sexual behavior. The idea of a violent rape was the man’s idea, not hers. In eternal realms, God held him responsible for it.

            It is human nature to go to extremes when dealing with responsibility. Either I’m not willing to assume any, believing that everyone else is to blame, or I take every ounce of the blame.

            I’m 60 years old. I’ve made a lot of alliances over the course of my life. Some friendships have been seasonal and significant to my spiritual journey. Some others, I wish I’d never made. I was naïve and didn’t see the true nature of the one I let close. In one case, the damage done by the ‘friend’ was severe. I spent years assuming all responsibility for the fallout. I reasoned, “It’s my fault for making friends with this person.” I couldn’t see that my naiveté and their inappropriate behavior were two separate things.

            Maybe you’re in a business relationship gone bad. Maybe you married someone you regret. Maybe you chose to go somewhere once and had no idea that something awful would happen as a result. The only thing worse than grieving the loss is to punish yourself for what is not your fault. The guilt for other people’s sinful behavior lies with them. They conceived it. They committed it.

            What complicates this is what happens when others who love us hear what we suffered. Consider what went down when Dinah told her family about the rape. I can hear her father rage. “How could you have gone outside the camp to bring this on yourself!” This is often where misplaced responsibility is born. People in grief don’t think clearly and often speak things they regret. They play the ‘only if’ card.

            What can I do today if I am partly responsible for something bad going happening? How can I come to understand the truth about true guilt and over-responsibility? From personal experience, I would advise two things. 1.) Ask God to show you a safe person to tell your story to, someone who will listen like Jesus listens. 2.) Seek God in prayer, study, and meditation about your story. Ask Him to reveal your story ‘to you’ the way that He would tell it. I have found that my version of my own story and His version are two entirely different narrations.

            As long as I assume responsibility that isn’t mine, there is no healing. Letting go of false guilt opens the door of hope.

You promised that Your sheep would hear Your voice. Speak today, Lord. Be the counselor that each one of us needs. Amen

Question: If you’ve been wronged, are you the one who has beaten yourself until there’s hardly a person left? Would you entertain the thought that you’ve assumed responsibility that may not be yours? Start with this. Imagine another person coming to you with a story identical to yours. What feedback would you give them about who is to blame?

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