The Blame Game

Roots and light When I was growing up it was my responsibility to care for the chickens. In the winter what that meant was carrying a heavy bucket of water from our house the thirty or more yards to their coop. The spring I was twelve the wetlands near the coop flooded and there was plenty of water right there. I took advantage of it. However, something then happened to the chickens. They began dying. Apparently, they had somehow caught a disease.

My parents called me into the living room. They were sitting on the sofa looking stern. They asked me if I had been doing anything different for the chickens. “No,” I lied. Then they faced me with the evidence. My great aunt’s gardener had seen me getting the water from the swamp. Uh oh! I don’t remember my punishment—probably a suspension of my allowance. Sadly, I didn’t really learn my lesson then, though eventually I did. I was often too fearful of the consequences to tell the truth.

Many if not most of us are. The vase is broken, the favorite toy ruined, the car dented and we hear: “He/she made me…”  or “I couldn’t help it.” Heard that before? This familiar copout is often every child’s first response—except perhaps for, “I didn’t do it.” How do we teach children to take responsibility for their actions? It isn’t easy and every parent has his or her idea how best to accomplish this. Sometimes they manage to make that happen, and the child grows up to be a responsible adult.

However all too often even as adults we are reluctant to take the responsibility we need to for our own actions. We may be afraid of the results when someone finds out. I know often I was, or we may not want someone to think ill of us, as in “how could I be so stupid as to make that mistake?”  There are as many reasons as there are situations. The bottom line is that we do not like to admit to being ill advised, ignorant, or just plain absent of mind.

Blaming is something many do when they want to get out of a situation where they feel trapped or one that will lower their value in another’s eyes and mind. The problem with playing the blame game is that not only is it dishonest, it is also unkind to the person or persons we may be blaming for our mistake.

I learned to own up to my responsibility only as an adult. My husband Stephen was actually the one to help me to do this. He would not allow me to get away with evading it, and he would make sure I was ultimately honest. I’ve learned that honesty really is the best policy when it comes to admitting to wrongdoing. Feelings of guilt are thereby avoided as well as other consequences that may arise when and if the truth emerges—and all too often it will.

 

Living a No Fault Life

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Automobile insurance from Massachusetts companies is based on the principle of no fault. What this means is that if you are involved with other vehicles in a car accident, regardless who is at fault, each insurance company pays for damages experienced by their insured. There is no need to go to court, no tangle over who is right and who is wrong, or any other difficulties associated with the distribution of funds to those who need them.

What happens if this principle is applied to life? What if instead of spending time assigning blame or fault with all the resentment and anger that that can produce, no fault were placed upon anyone? If that were to be the case it could mean that any resentment or anger I might feel from a perceived injury, whether physical, emotional or psychological could be seen in a different light.

Think about it. If a cat scratches me, is it the cat’s fault, or is it simply the nature of a cat to scratch? If a small child breaks my precious piece of china or even pulls the dog’s tail, whom can I blame? Children are often careless and break things. Especially when they are very young, they may not recognize that dogs don’t like to have their tails pulled. Is the child at fault for how he or she acts, or is the child simply acting the way children do?

In my life there have been many people who metaphorically speaking stepped on my toes because of who they were. They didn’t do it on purpose. They were just being themselves. Can I blame them for being themselves? Do I resent them for their actions, or do I simply recognize that it’s not their fault that they are inclined to be forgetful, careless, ill informed or whatever else caused the problem?

I may do a disservice if I place blame on another instead of recognizing that he or she only acts as she or he is capable of acting at the time. The same is true of myself. I can take responsibility for my action; I can try to do better next time; yet I do not need to fault myself. It is my firm belief that at any given time people do only what they are capable of doing and that there is no need to assign fault. Blaming causes resentment and anger as well as tends to prolong the original difficulty.

I might gently call attention or discuss what was said or done, yet only if it seems important. It’s not my job to judge the actions of another. Perhaps this is why statues and other images of Justice are usually blindfolded. She holds scales symbolizing fairness. Perhaps she sees with the eyes of the heart rather than her physical ones. To be fair I need to take into consideration all the factors in a situation and not only my perceptions. When I can accept that there really is no fault, that it simply is the way it is, then compassion and forgiveness will guide my response.