How do you respond when others start blaming you for results or experiences that are not what they had hoped for?
All of us have had experiences where something has gone wrong or has resulted in an undesirable outcome, and the response of others was to lay the blame on us. We ourselves have probably been tempted to do the same. This is nothing new in the human experience, nor in the experience of leaders. David had a similar situation in 1 Samuel 30:6. He and his followers had been living with their families in an area called Ziklag, which had been granted to them by Achish, a Philistine ruler, when David was alienated from Saul and “on the run.” Achish made David and his men personal bodyguards and had taken them with him to encounter Saul and Israel in battle. In the sovereignty of God, David and his men were sent back by Achish in response to the mistrust of other Philistine leaders, and in returning to Ziklag, found it had been raided by the Amalekites. Ziklag was destroyed, and all the families and goods of David and his followers were carried off by the Amalekites.
In 1 Samuel 30:6 in the midst of their grief, it says “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in his spirit because of his sons and daughters.” In other words, they were playing the blame game! In their minds, it was David’s fault and David should face the consequences. How typical that our first response to trouble is often to find someone to blame! This response is a reflection of what happened when sin entered the world through the actions of Adam and Eve, both of whom sought to lay blame to others. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake, and we’ve been playing the blame game ever since!
Leaders aren’t exempt from this response, both in being tempted to blame others or to receive blame from others when things don’t go well or as expected. How should you respond when the immediate situation tempts you or others to blame and accuse? In times like this, a leader has the opportunity to model important qualities and inspire others in the process. Two areas in particular are important to focus on as you think of David and your own leadership experience.
The first is the opportunity to model INTEGRITY. If you want to be a leader that others will follow, you must be a person of integrity. Integrity builds trust because it says your walk and your talk agree, that your leadership is built on deeply positive character, that you are willing to accept not only praise but responsibility when things don’t work out like you or others desired, that you are willing to put the fault where it belongs including on yourself. So much of what we see in the lives of those in our society, in business, in relationships, and even in the church, lacks integrity. In the life of Jesus, what he said and practiced aligned at all times, even when tempted to do otherwise, even when it cost him the approval or support of others. His desire was to do the will of the Father and to be a blessing, not a blamer!
The second opportunity you have in times like the one David experienced is to model HUMILITY. Humility is one of the greatest strengths and influences a leader has. Contrary to the power broker mentality that would say domination, manipulation, and a strong authoritative presence are key to effective leadership, Jesus showed us that real strength and real influence flow from humility. Humility shows others you don’t consider yourself better than them, that you are willing to admit your faults or shortcomings and be transparent, that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, that your main focus isn’t on preserving your reputation and your own interests, but on being a person in community with others and for others. This again builds trust and inspires others to want to follow your leadership.
It’s so easy and so common to play the blame game, blaming our circumstance, our parents, our boss, our congregation or its leaders, our government, our external factors instead of our internal condition. And the blame game never brings good results, only makes things worse. David (v. 6) “found strength in the Lord his God” and with the Lord’s direction, found a solution and led his people to victory over their circumstances, glorifying God in the process.
Instead of finding excuses and blaming others, or when others want to direct blame your way, be a model of integrity and humility, and seek Christ instead of your own solutions. He will lead you in ways that will glorify him and inspire others to follow your leadership whether or not the circumstances are what they wanted or expected.