01 Apr STOP THE BLAME GAME
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”
-Douglas Adams, author, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Here’s fair warning: this article just might put your mind into overdrive.
Joe and Betsy are on a canoeing trip in the wilderness. They come to a fork in the river. Do they go left or right? A disagreement takes place. Joe wants to go left. Betsy wants to go right. Betsy wins the argument and they go right. They paddle along enjoying the sights. Without warning they are suddenly swept up in a hideously strong current. Worse yet, they hear the ominous sound of a waterfall ahead. What do they do? Does Joe start screaming at Betsy, blaming her for making the choice to take the right fork? I don’t think so. It’s counterproductive. This is survival. They paddle like mad for the shore.
If they make it, does Joe start yelling at Betsy for making the choice? That’s what many people would do. But why blame? It’s just plain stupid and solves nothing. And yet, the blame game seems to be a popular sport.
I want to acknowledge, right now, that there are times when people and businesses really mess up and need to be held accountable and pay the price for their mistakes. If you want to say that they are to blame, that’s fine with me. I also want to acknowledge that it’s all right to give reasons for a mistake – as long as you don’t point the finger of blame.
I’m specifically addressing something totally different. I’m addressing a plague.
As I travel, run a business and speak to businesses, I’ve observed that blame is an epidemic – in the professional world and life in general.
Many, many individuals wallow in self-pity and hate those who have hurt them. Others shirk responsibility, especially when the going gets rough, “It’s not my fault!” Or, whenever anything goes wrong or slower than planned, or doesn’t get finished at all, people’s fingers start to point. They blame others, the weather, God, the government or each other for their position. They hold grudges, take secret pleasure in the suffering of those they blame, sometimes seek revenge and feel totally justified in doing so.
“An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie, guarded.”
-Alexander Pope, English Poet and Writer.
If blame is counterproductive – and I believe it is – why does it happen? Blaming others is an addiction, a habit of faulty thinking, a cop-out from being held accountable. The solution is to recognize that our lack of action or choice of the wrong action are often part of the problem, that we can control inappropriate reactions, accept responsibility and start looking for solutions.
It may sound easy but something very peculiar happens when I bring up the subject of blame – either in my private coaching practice or in my business presentations. First there’s a hush. Then, people begin to shield themselves in a kind of a psychological protective bubble. Maybe the mere concept of blame whispers to some primitive fear-based protective part of our mind, triggering an automatic defensive posture.
Nonetheless, blame needs to be addressed and examined IF you want to grow emotionally and gain control over your ability to create change and craft a joyous, exciting, productive and meaningful life.
The bottom line is that much of blame has to do with faulty thinking. We tend to forget – or never realize – that we create the scripts of our life or turn that option over to others. We live out of our expectations of how others should act and the world should work according to the script we wrote.
When those expectations are not met – we blame or, as Doc Childre and Howard Martin, founders of the Institute of HeartMath say, “We have two choices: continue to blame the world for our stress or take responsibility for own reactions and deliberately change our emotional climate.” Life can be tough and so can we.
Some never have the issue of blaming others but they still have an issue. Here’s the big one. Virtually all people have the same favorite target – themselves. And, for many of these individuals, blaming themselves feels tough and strong and righteous and fair.
More faulty thinking! When you encounter difficulties and take the path that leads to fear, the natural reaction is to blame yourself. Blaming yourself is definitely not a sign of strength, but of fear Remember this – fear needs a fall guy. When you blame yourself, you reinforce fear. You convince yourself that your worst dread is real – you are not good enough, smart enough, knowledgeable enough, loving enough. When you believe this, you drain yourself of your creativity.
Blame isn’t responsibility or accountability. Responsibility is about learning and making positive changes. Blame is about sabotaging your growth and staying frozen in fear. Responsibility is a call to positive action. Blame is a call to anger. Positive action solves problems; blame solves nothing. You want to learn to make a much more positive choice. Because blame is inspired by fear, the strongest force against fear is love.
In order to break the self-limiting blame game you have to ask yourself some hard questions and become aware when you fall in the trap of blame. What is the value of blaming your family, your spouse, your siblings, your mother or father, your colleagues, your community, society or government for your problems, failures or general unpleasantness? What do you get out of it? What is the value of expecting others to behave according to the script you wrote? How do you grow? What do you learn?
As the writer and poet Erica Jong says, “You take life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: No one to blame.”
To take your life in your hands, you might take this approach. When something goes wrong, instead of blaming outside forces, others or yourself, take a couple of deep breaths and look within – you. Think about your thinking. Think about what habits of your thinking, actions and communication might have contributed to it and, instead of blaming – LEARN – so that you will not repeat your mistakes.
Ask some questions: Is it because you made some wrong decisions either because you didn’t have enough knowledge or didn’t prepare adequately? Were you committed? Were you assuming something without checking the facts? Maybe you invited the wrong people into your life and became aggressive, dominating and controlling. Were you acting out of fear of failure, success or rejection? Did you lose your temper – again? Maybe you need to strengthen some aspect of your personality
Maybe you need to change your mindset.
Make a commitment with yourself, right now to:
- Catch yourself when you blame, take a breath and quiz yourself with the above questions.
- Never make an excuse without coming up with positive solutions.
- Take responsibility that you are the creator of your life because – you are.
As my wife says, “We aren’t here to see though each other. We are here to see each other through.” We have a finite amount of time on this earth. Don’t you want it to be as loving as possible? I do.