Adam said, “It was the woman. She gave it to me…” – Genesis 3:12
Many years ago, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands held an outdoor banquet on a soccer field for the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury. Between courses, they discussed the bloody civil war that had recently ended there.
Suddenly, the Prime Minister turned to the Archbishop and said, “I want you to bless us! I need to say in public that we were responsible too, not just the people on the other islands. So I’ll quiet the crowd. Then I’ll kneel down, and you can ask God to forgive us for what we contributed to the horror.”
There are moments in life, the Archbishop said later, when you hear the gospel for the first time. Like when a politician says, “It wasn’t just them. It was us, too.”
People hardly ever voluntarily accept a share of blame. Our default position is innocence. “Not me,” said Adam, “I didn’t do anything. She did it to me. I’m the victim here.”
You did this. We didn’t. Our intentions are good. Yours are bad. Our suffering’s terrible. Yours can’t compare. Our story’s true. Yours is a lie.
Little will change until we stop telling the story of our total innocence and their total guilt. Things change when we are willing to tell the far more important story—the one shared human narrative of ignorance, myopia, fear, error, violence, trauma, and loss.
It wasn’t just them. It was us, too.
Strip away my sense of aggrieved innocence, O God. Show me what I don’t want to know about myself. It isn’t just them. It is me, too. Then let healing begin.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.