We sat and watched “Doubt” last night. In case you haven’t seen it, it involves a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is wrongly or rightly accused by a nun (Meryl Streep) of an impropriety with an altar boy. In the movie, Father Flynn (Hoffman) gives one of two short sermons, during mass. The second one is about a parishioner, who is having trouble with a gossipy tongue. Likewise, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep) gossips with Sister James about a doubt she has about Father Flynn. Together they blame him for something they think he may have done. The doubt grows and festers and eventually takes over the life of Sister Aloysius. She simply can’t quiet the doubt until it brings the results she wants.
Doubt, gossiping, blame: those are some interesting bed fellows, aren’t they? They have wreaked havoc in my own life and marriage. I have doubted my husband and his love for me. I have talked over this doubt with others. I have strung the pieces of doubt together, like a poorly-made garment, called them facts, and then blamed him. The doubt took over my life as well, causing sleepless nights, and depression. During this period of ugliness, our marriage suffered, and my husband suffered. He took my blame on the chin and never retaliated, which is his nature. Then it occurred to me, “Perhaps, I am partly to blame.”
In a poignant scene, Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius were in a similar situation. He asked her if she had ever done anything of which she was ashamed and if she had asked for forgiveness. She said that she had. He responded with guarded enthusiasm that this made them the same. She said that it did not and continued with her campaign against him. Some marriages can play out like this with one giving into the lure of self-righteousness at all costs. Sometimes the cost is high.
The relationship doctor, Dr. David B. Hawkins, speaks to this in a letter entitled, “The Futility of Blame.” In the letter, there is an email from someone whose marriage was torn apart by blame and how the husband wisely chose to step away from the battlefield. Like him, I have made the same choice. I no longer share with others the ups and downs of our marriage and I have given blame a rest. Today, our marriage is better. There are still problems and, occasionally, Doubt will come pounding at my back door. Instead of letting him in, however, I don’t answer and trust that my Savior will fight those battles. God is love, afterall, and who among us is better at creating and mending love than He? No one.