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Whose Fault Is It?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Most people, if they thought about it, would prefer to exchange the time spent figuring out who was to blame in some conflict for the same amount of time spent more constructively. At times neither party is clearly at fault. Sometimes, thinking about it from all sides, trying to be objective, we think the fault has to lie with the other person. Mental wrestlings, ruminations, go on and on, and in the process a friendship may be lost or an acquaintance may become someone we'd prefer to avoid. Accusations rarely help. Silent evasions can be even worse. Brushing the problem aside and forgetting about it isn't healthy.

I often think of a little boy in one of my Sunday School classes. When we were all reciting the Ten Commandments and got to the ninth one, I heard him saying, "Thou shalt not bear fault witness against thy neighbour" (see Exodus 20:16). Of course, the correct word is false, not fault. And yet, how appropriate the substitution of that word fault can be here, when we find our own selves finding fault with our neighbor.

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Recently, through a misunderstanding I had with a friend, I blamed her and she blamed me for bungling a lunch date. Rumination over its being "her fault" had made me feel angry and disappointed. But I shouted an order to myself: "Stop it!" And I began to pray. My prayer was that I not break that Ninth Commandment; I must not bear false-or fault-witness against my friend. Neither should I blame myself.

What had happened did not need to be analyzed. It needed to be seen as an opportunity to overcome anything that might disturb the good relations God ordains between us, His children. I knew I must see my friend as God's child, innocent and loving, as I perceived myself to be. I grew to feel completely at peace, and when we got together we were two friends, laughing at a silly mix-up. We have maintained a very happy friendship ever since.

A simple illustration perhaps, but to me it serves as an example of how we can be either captives or captains of the way we see others. We can know that faulting our neighbor does not measure up to recognizing the way God expresses perfection in each of us.

While it is right that human justice prevail, we only burden ourselves when we feel hatred or revenge. These feelings help no one. Recently I read of a woman whose son had been brutally murdered. She said she held no hatred for the murderer-only sympathy and forgiveness. It was as if she had an inner conviction that innocence can never be victimized; as if she knew her child was safe in God, despite the crime. I don't believe this was a form of denial; and I do believe it was an affirmation that God, who is completely good, can never allow evil to triumph over His power.

This follows the example of Christ Jesus, who prayed while he was being crucified that God would forgive those responsible, because of their ignorance (see Luke 23:33, 34). Every case of crime, large or small, has its basis in ignorance. That is not to say that the criminal should go unpunished or be set free before he or she has been reformed and paid for the crime. The third tenet of Christian Science states, "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts." This was written by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, the divine Science that enabled Jesus to heal the sick, to forgive his assailants, and to defeat death. This tenet is found in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 497).

Society may attempt to uncover fault by tracing someone's upbringing. We may attribute bad behavior to any number of people and conditions. But the bottom line is that, because we are all God's sons and daughters, no one is at fault in His eyes. We are all innocent, made in God's image. And we can each learn of this and bring our behavior into accord with it. The real challenge is not to determine fault, but to understand our inherent innocence clearly enough that we stop pinning fault on person and get on with helping one another bring behavior into line with God's law of love. God is not a faultfinder. Neither can we be, as we are truly the reflection of God.

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