“I’ve never been one to say that it’s another person’s fault unless I can pin it on him.”
Well, few persons will ever admit such a thing unless they are confronted with irrefutable evidence of their guilt in counseling. But, that’s precisely what they think, whether or not they put it in such terms. Blame-shifting began in the Garden. When God approached Adam following his sin, He blamed his behavior on God and His wife: “The woman You gave me, she . . .” Sounded plausible to his ears, but God didn’t buy it. Then, when God confronted the woman, she also tried to shift the responsibility for the sin: “The serpent, he . . . “ God didn’t buy that either. When God approached the serpent, he didn’t try to shift the blame—there was no one left to use as his patsy!
Now, in counseling you will find that things haven’t radically changed since the first pair of people sinned; blame-shifting is one of the principal means for attempting to escape the consequences of one’s sin. If you aren’t looking for it, when you begin to hear counselees piously explain that “it was because of so-and-so that I did it,” think “No. That’s not right. No one can make another sin; the excuse may sound plausible, but it can’t be true.” Excuses, a-plenty fly in counseling rooms. When you take one apart and look at it carefully, you will always discover that, difficult though it may have been to resist the temptation to sin, your counselee was the one who “did it.” Always remember, no one is ever forced to sin. Force may be applied by circumstances, threats, physical torture or whatever, to give in to temptation—but he alone is responsible for his sin. He did it.
And, difficult as it may have been for the counselee to resist, he could have, if he was in a right relationship to God and called upon Him for ability to withstand. You may sympathize with him for the bind in which he may have found himself, but never for his sin. You need to help him to repent. Only then can you learn where his weaknesses are that allowed him to give in. Having done so, you can also help him to learn to resist temptation, to grow in faith and spiritual strength, and how to go about addressing the temptations presented by others. But, you see, those things cannot be done until, first, he admits his sin. Otherwise, if someone else were responsible for his actions, there would be little reason for taking the time to teach him.
So, never forget that, the minute you begin to hear an excuse being framed for sin, you can only help by, first, bringing your counselee to repentance. Then, you can directly deal with the circumstances, relationships and so on, whatever they may have been. Until you reach that point, there is little else that you can do. So, don’t try. Too many counselors attempt to help before the counseling context is ripe for it. Change follows repentance as its outcome; it doesn’t produce it.