Recently, I was reviewing my past, thinking about choices I made, and I began to blame others for how some things had turned out. I blamed my parents for the decisions they made that affected my childhood. I blamed my school for the insecurities I felt, and how I never felt I was perfect enough to succeed in various areas. I blamed my church for attitudes I had about God that affected my relationship with Him.

But as I lay in bed thinking deeply about my life, I began to see my parents with understanding and realized that they’d done the best they had known how. I remembered all the ways they had encouraged me and helped me become the person I am today.

Likewise, I looked back at my time in school and realized that a lot of what I had experienced was on me. I was shy and afraid to try new things. I was fearful of stepping out and taking risks. It was mostly my own insecurities that got in the way of my academic and social success.

When I relived the years I spent going to my family’s small independent church, sure, I remembered gossip and some hurts that had stuck with me; but with the benefit of a much longer life, I realized how easy it’d been to blame the situation or the institution, when in reality I’d received a wonderful foundation of faith, and so often the members of the congregation there had helped me and been examples of genuine Christianity.

It’s important not to get stuck blaming situations. My life hasn’t been perfect. I have made some decisions that have hurt myself, and at times others have hurt me. But it wasn’t my home life or my school or my church that was responsible. It was individuals. And when I remembered the individuals, I saw a woman struggling with grief because her oldest child had died; an unhappy middle-aged woman who had spent her time caring for an elderly mother and aunt who had numerous infirmities; a fresh-out-of-college youth leader who thought he was an expert on teenagers but simply needed a bit more life experience; and an exhausted and stressed math teacher whose wife’s pregnancy had landed her in the hospital for months. These people made mistakes, just like I’ve made mistakes along the way in my life.

It’s too easy to draw conclusions and make generalizations about our experiences and the people we feel justified in casting blame on. But some serious introspection can give insight into why things happened. At the time, we might not understand why someone reacted the way they did, but looking back with understanding helps us have a clearer picture and find freedom in forgiveness.