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Facing the consequences of your actions

“It wasn’t my fault.”   “I didn’t mean for it to turn out like this.”   How often we hear words like those in our everyday life. And my response is, “So what?”   Actions have consequences and intentions may have little to do with them. In our victim-focused culture, this …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

“It wasn’t my fault.”


“I didn’t mean for it to turn out like this.”
How often we hear words like those in our everyday life. And my response is, “So what?”
Actions have consequences and intentions may have little to do with them. In our victim-focused culture, this is hard medicine to swallow. It doesn’t compute and it’s not politically correct.
It doesn’t square with a Bible that says black and white things about accountability for action like: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Heb. 9:27).
Here’s an example from my life today: I’m leaving in half an hour for a courtroom where I will sit with a friend for the sentencing of her husband. He’s going to get 30 years for pedophelia.  The whole thing is horribly tragic. But actions have consequences. They have consequences in my friend’s life, consequences in a child’s life, and consequences in the life of the man being sentenced.
I have another friend who volunteered with my ministry who will be sitting in jail for another ten years for the same crime. And another friend of mine who was a victim of that crime, turned to a gay lifestyle as a result, then contracted AIDS and died.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen” doesn’t cut it.
The good news is that though God is committed to justice, he is also committed to freedom. “The truth will set you free,” he tells us. So truth has consequences too – it brings justice. Once justice has been administered, freedom is possible. Victor Frankl may have been in a Nazi concentration camp, but he lived the life of a free man, blessing his torturers. There is no torture quite so painful as the torture of a seared conscience.
Many of us want grace without justice. Jesus came to set the captives free and asks us to do the same. We need to belly up to the bar and face the consequences of our good intentions run amok. We’ve hurt people, we’ve failed to really, honestly apologize and failed to make amends. And the irony is that we ourselves remain imprisoned as a result.
It’s a great day to join Jesus in his liberation project. Someone in your life needs you to own your actions. Someone can be set free just with a few words of a clean apology: “I’m so sorry. I see the pain my actions caused you. Will you forgive me?”
Own the wreckage you left behind.* Own the mess. Come clean today and find the freedom that he promised you.
* Here’s an article giving you seven principles in asking forgiveness.

Comments (11)

  • It’s hard. We recently got a letter from a beloved nephew who is in jail awaiting sentencing next week, looking at probably 15 years. He’s been sitting in isolation, maximum security for almost a year now, very much alone except for God, and my heart breaks for him as he finally, for the first time in his life, accepts responsibility for his own actions and realizes that in 15 years, when he gets out, his daughters will be in their 30’s and his mother will be gone, and he asked my wonderful husband, Uncle Mike, do you think you’ll still be here when I get out? The reality for him is a terrible sad thing…

    One thing I notice tho, as I look around me at the sadness and the pain, and the ripple effect caused by even the smallest stumbling, is that people sure do like to beat a man when he’s down. It seems to me that when a brother falls, we’re commanded to lift him up, to encourage him, to forgive him… not to beat what’s left of him into a bloody pulp. I am glad you will be there with your friend.

  • Thanks for writing this, and thanks for being a friend to your friend…I have been told I have the gift of encouragement, but often find it so difficult to be an encouragement to those in my own family. I have two adult sons who have made some really stupid choices, and I find the line between grace and enabling is a pretty fine one. We want for people to own responsibility, to not slip into the role of victim, but yet, helping those who help themselves, I believe is also important. How do you tell where the line is and if you have fallen off the wrong side?

  • Re Kathy Pride comment. I would love to hear a response to this from the author of this article. I struggle with this very thing on a daily basis with a close family member. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home but God has set me free by His grace and teaching me to take responsibility – so it is hard for me to be supportive when it comes to people that just keep having the same destructive behavior over and over. I believe in a bottom line, but it is a ‘fine line’ indeed to define that. I would appreciate so much if anyone has any additional thoughts on this. Thanks and ‘showers of blessings’ to all!

  • Kathy and Jeanie,

    great question. What do you do when someone doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions? First, learn to hear the voice of God. The Holy Spirit is our counselor and shows us the right thing to do when we struggle with discernment. If you’d like to grow in your ability to hear God’s voice, let me encourage you to join one of our online listening prayer groups. Just email me and i’ll give you more info.

    Second, grace is always a great default when you’re having trouble hearing God on an issue. Read Matthew 5-7 – that is how Jesus inaugurates his public ministry. It’s so counterintuitive. It doesn’t make sense, but it jacks people up and puts “burning coals on their heads.”

    Third, grace does not mean enabling others. Draw your boundaries in advance. Grace often means doing the hard work of saying “no” when what you want to do is to let your antagonist off the hook.

    And finally, if you ever move too far from point one, you put yourself at risk, doing what Jonah did, forfeiting the grace that could be yours.

    A good book on this subject is “the Shack” – the chapter on the judge where the protagonist is interrogated about his judgments of others.

  • Thank you Seth, so much. This will give me a lot to ponder and research. I have read The Shack and will re-read that chapter. I’m so thankful for Tammy Maltby posting your blog today – I believe God dropped it in my path this morning, just for me. God is good like that! Thanks again!

  • This is an awesome blog – which I have already posted to my page along with a video I had the privilege of commissioning while @ Prison Fellowship. Ron never intended to murder anyone, but in a drug fight a stray bullet hit Arna’s daughter. For 12 years, he denied he did it … and Arna fought his parole every year.

    But when he finally owned up to what he’d done – God began to work in both of them so miraculously … forgiving, redeeming, reconciling, restoring as ONLY HE CAN! Here is a link if you’d like to view it – (and hey, the producer of this who also produced The Ultimate Gift w/James Garner is wanting to make this into a feature film. If you’d like to invest, email me @ [email protected] and I’ll connect you!)


  • Great post although sad scenarios. Very sad. And owning our behavior is the definitive, needed first-step to healing….and to forgiveness.

    I love where God says “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:17-19)

    Apart from confession there can be no forgiveness! And the confession must come from our lips. We have to own it before we can give it up.

    Thanks, great thoughts as usual.

  • Awesome blog. I try to do this in my life but I know I fail miserably at times too. Thank you for the words of encouragement and may the Lord quicken my heart when I have hurt someone. This is one of the ways we draw near to His presence and live in peace.

  • I believe that God is stronger than the Devil. Good is more powerful than evil. I have decided to turn myself in and my husband after a year and a half of him abusing and coercing me to do illegal acts. It almost ended in a murder suicide because of his selfishness. Him killing me. He must be punished and I will have to do what I have to do because the safety of my children is most important to me. I did not know that such evil could exist in the Earth … But it does. He is sick and twisted and I cannot believe he would be so self centered and irresponsible. If I have to do time because of him then I can only turn to God and say … I know you were with me the whole way and pray for your forgiveness as I have not followed in the steps of my leaders and deserve punishment. I am truly sorry and am sad. Somehow in my journey I lost your hand, but now I have found you again and you can lead me in the right direction.

  • Chel,

    What a hard thing you’ve decided to do. It’s hard, but it’s necessary if you are ever to lead a free life and if your husband is to get free from the bondage that he is in. I pray that it goes well for you and your family.

  • I like much of this blog in what it means in terms of forgiveness. However, I think it is also way to focused on manifestations of the ego and along the theme of ‘sinners must be punished’ which is NOT from God but another ego manifestation. Let’s remember the Bible was an interpretation written by Man with all it’s inherent weaknesses. There are to me only two things in the world: Fear and Love. God to me is pure Love; Fear is pure Ego. So all this talk about Justice is nothing more than an Ego based desire for retribution; try the opposite and send only Love. Great book on all this called ‘The Course in Miracles.’

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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