Personalization and blame is a common form of negative thinking that many people are prone to use. Personalization occurs when people blame themselves or hold themselves responsible for events that are not directly related to them. For example, if you bump into a friend at the store and they do not talk to you, you might think that you have done something wrong to make them act that way. You assume this to be true when in all actuality, that person may just be having a bad day and not thinking about you at all. Personalization can cause feelings of sadness and depression in a person because he or she is carrying the burden of responsibility over things they have no control over. We should put our trust in God that He will take care of us and any negative event that may come our way. 1 Peter 5:7 confirms this by saying “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you”. We have enough obstacles to face as Christians without adding everyone else’s problems to the mix.
As a therapist, I saw the habit of Personalization most often with women and children. Some of the female clients I had typically blamed themselves for the wrong-doing of others. For instance, some of my female clients would blame themselves for the bad behaviors of their boyfriends or husbands. “If I had only done this or that better, he would treat me better.” This form of thinking is wrong because everyone has choices that they make regarding their behavior, and no one else can make those choices for other people. Some of my child clients would blame themselves for their parents’ behavior, such as believing that they are the cause of their parents’ divorce. It is always important to teach children about choices and that everyone has to make their own, and everyone is responsible for their own actions. “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,” (Romans 2: 6-8).
Blame is similar to Personalization except that it involves someone blaming others for events that they are responsible for causing. For instance, a common example of “blaming” that I witnessed while counseling was a client who said, “They make me do it.” Clients would frequently make poor choices or behave poorly and place the blame onto someone else. By blaming others, my clients appeared to believe that this automatically placed the responsibility of their own actions upon other people. I would quickly remind them that the consequence of their behavior and actions are their fault and their fault alone. It is very frustrating to those who get blamed for other people’s mistakes because it makes them feel like scapegoats. A scapegoat is actually a Biblical term which is today commonly used to refer to one person taking the blame for another person’s actions. Scapegoats are mentioned in Leviticus 16, where Aaron, the high priest, is described as having two goats, one of which is offered to the Lord as a sin offering, the other (the scapegoat), has the sins placed upon him, and he is released into the wilderness. The scapegoat in the Bible was involved in the sacrificial process to remove sins, but blaming others does not remove the responsibility of monitoring one’s actions and behaviors today.
Both personalization and blame can harm the relationship one has with others and with God. We should take responsibility for our own actions and behavior and not try to either take the blame for something we did not do, or blame others for something they did not do. We should treat others and ourselves the best way possible. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you”(Ephesians 4:32).