If any of you sin without knowing it, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, you have incurred guilt, and are subject to punishment.
Leviticus 5:17 (NRSV)
I received an e-mail from a front-line manager of one of our clients. In a regular report that went to the executive team I had mentioned something that caused an executive Vice-President of the company to question the front-line manager’s handling of one particular circumstance. This caught the manager off guard and caused the manager to feel thrown under the bus. It had never been my intention to do so, and I honestly had not anticipated that my report would create the executive’s concern.
My initial human reaction was defensive. My report was accurate. I said nothing that was untrue. I was only doing my job. I couldn’t have anticipated how the report would be received. Yada, yada, yada…. My excuses did nothing to address the unintended injury. I quickly responded with a sincere apology and I committed to being more aware in the future and to letting the manager know if anything in my future reports might create similar questions.
Along life’s journey, I’ve observed that we often plod along with blinders on, unaware (or unconcerned) how our words and actions may affect others. When confronted, I have noted that our natural human reaction is usually the same as mine in this case: excuse, shift blame, and/or deflect personal responsibility.
Today’s chapter is a list of ways the ancient sacrificial system God established through Moses addressed mistakes we as humans with our blinders on:
- …and are unaware of it… (vs. 2)
- …and are unaware of it… (vs. 3)
- …and are unaware of it… (vs. 4)
- When you realize your guilt… (vs. 5)
- When any of you commit a trespass and sin unintentionally… (vs. 14)
The message is clear. Just because I am unaware of something I have done does not excuse me from responsibility for my words and actions. Guilt is not excused by ignorance or self-justification.
This morning as I read, I must confess that I found myself mulling over a few things others have recently said and done that pissed me off. Words and actions that created problems for myself and others. I thought of the human blinders we wear and the way these individuals act unaware, excuse their behavior, shift blame, and avoid responsibility. Then, I remembered the e-mail and my initial reaction to it. I have my own blinders. People are people. We are all guilty of unintended injuries, even to those we love most in this world.
Today I’m thinking of ways I can take the blinders off as I journey through the day. I want to be more aware of my words and my actions, and the potential or their unintended effects.