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. Perhaps 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 from the predator’s part. Now, 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 when it’s not all my fault.

I’m 68 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. Others, I wish I’d never made. I was naïve and didn’t see the true nature of the ones 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 predatory and deceitful behaviors 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 itself 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 that happened? How can I come to understand the right proportions regarding true guilt and over-responsibility? From personal experience, I would advise two things. 1.) Ask God to show you someone safe with whom you can tell your story, someone who listens like Jesus listened. Ask them for a fresh viewpoint.  2.) Seek God in prayer and meditation about your story. 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 can be little healing. Letting go of false guilt and allowing the truth to permeate my perspective changes everything.

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

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