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Blame vs Taking Responsibility

Blame vs Taking Responsibility

Oh how quick are we to blame other people for our wrong doings , our short comings and our failures.

Let’s go back to our childhood. Did we ever own up to doing something wrong when our parents confronted us and asked who had drawn on the walls. “It’s not my fault, she told me to do it.” “It was not me. Johnny did that.” Can any of us ever remember actually owning up to the deed? So what made us not take responsibility for our actions? Fear! Yes, plain old fear. Fear of punishment. I don’t know about you but we as kids got the good old fashioned hiding and when we were too old for that we were grounded, and not for a day or two, weeks sometimes.

And then we get to school and we bring home a bad grade. I remember I did in Grade 3. We had moved to a new school in the city and the standard of education was definitely higher than our little village school. I had never brought home a bad grade, ever. Fortunately for me, the school was building tennis courts about 30 meters from our classroom window and had made a heck of a noise. I told my dad that I was unable to concentrate due to the noise. Of course, he did not accept that feeble excuse and I was given quite a talking to. Many, many years later, during some intensive NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) training, I discovered that it was at that very moment in time that I had made the decision that I was not good enough. And that translated into me not being good enough at anything that I did from there on out. But we will leave this for another discussion.

Why did I feel it was necessary to blame the noise for my bad report? I feared punishment from my dad. I was very embarrassed and sheepish that I had brought home poor marks.

And then we get to senior school and the pressure to perform on the academic and sporting levels becomes greater. We lose a match and blame our competitors for having put us off for the most lamest reason under the sun. We blame our bad marks on our teachers who don’t know how to teach. We forget our words during choir because someone in the audience put us off and so it goes. Blame, blame and some more blame. Fear and/or embarrassment for poor performance?

Psychology talks about the ‘self-serving bias’, with researchers discovering that many of us will take the credit for ourselves if things go good in life, but lay blame on circumstance when things go bad.

And so we go through college or university, part-time jobs, new jobs and relationships always blaming something or someone else for our failures and poor performance. Why is it that we are unable to or refuse to take responsibility for our shortcomings? I can understand that as a child making the decision to blame someone else is really fear based. Afraid of the hiding, loud words, shouting, being grounded etc.

Yet, we continue to blame going through adulthood. Has it now become habit. Has blame become so fully entrenched in us? Does fear, embarrassment and belittlement follow us into adulthood? Why are we refusing to take responsibility for our actions and the results of our actions.

We hear the sayings, “it takes two to Tango.” and “There are always two sides to a story and even a third.” He blames her and she blames him for failure in a marriage for example.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

So why do we blame?

1. Blaming others is just so much easier than taking responsibility. It takes less effort. Blame is really just the opposite of taking responsibility and embracing the work that that entails.

2. Blame means you don’t have to feel vulnerable. Vulnerability means being authentic about how you are feeling, and truthful about who you are and how things you have experienced have affected you. That is just far too much work and it may mean brining up old wounds and with that loads of emotion. It’s just easier to point a finger elsewhere.

3. Blaming others means that you are in control. You have control over the situation and you can decide how to deal with it and how to apportion the blame.

4. Blame helps to offload negative emotions. Think back to a day when you were not feeling so good and just feeling bleh. And then you just let it all out on the most stupid things. You drop the cap of the toothepaste tube and immediately blame the last person who brushed their teeth who had absolutely nothing to do with you dropping the cap.

5. Blame protects your ego. This is a biggie. Protecting the old ego. Blaming someone else puts you in a position of superiority.

6. And then the opposite holds true also. Blaming so that you become the victim. “Everything always happens to me!” “Oh woe is me”. This is simply just attention seeking. “I am the good one here, and everybody else is the baddie.”

Whether you are using blame to be superior or a victim, both come from a lack of self-esteem. The question to ask might even be not so much “why am I blaming”, as “why do I feel so bad about myself I have to blame others to feel better?”

So what are the consequences of blaming others? What are you losing out on or not getting?

1. Your personal growth.
Blame is a defence mechanism. When you are constantly blaming others you leave very little room for self growth. You shut yourself off from learning any lessons from what others may have to offer you.

2. Your power.
By blaming others you are actually putting yourself into a position of powerlessness. If something is someone else’s fault then only they have the power to change that for which you blame them for. You cannot do squat!

3. Your empathy.
When you blame someone else you do not get to hear their side of the story. Have you ever been in a position when you actually listened to someone else’s side of the story and thought to yourself afterwards, “If only I knew, I would not have behaved like such an idiot.” You have allowed your empathy to shine through.

4. Healthy relationships.
By blaming another in a relationship you are putting the other person down and in so doing you will eventually drive a wedge between the two of you and finally away from you. The other person constantly feels judged and belittled and any trust is eventually completely eroded into nothingness. By blaming you lose all chances of a healthy two-way relationship built on trust and understanding.

5. Your positive influence on others and yourself.
If you are constantly blaming others in your working environment, for example, you will soon find that others will follow suit. Blame has been found by a recent study to be contagious. As with any negative behaviour. It just has a knack and tendency of becoming the norm. Think about the situation at home and what your children may learn from this. By taking responsibility you are positively influencing others around you and so you too will gain the benefits.

6. Your self-worth
The more you blame others the less your self-worth becomes. It becomes a vicious downward spiral. Catch yourself before it becomes too late!

7. Challenging experiences and growth
It is so easy to blame someone or something else and walk away from it. You are robbing yourself of the experience of tackling a problem head on. From experience and learning’s comes valuable growth. The more you take responsibility for your actions the more you learn and the better able you are to handle the same situations when

8. Skills Development.
Often we blame others as we do not have the necessary skills to deal with the situation. This is often true in a work environment. You cannot learn the adequate skills be blaming and walking away. Suck it up and deal with the situation as best as you can and learn from it.

Since we’re all human, mistakes and shortfalls are part of our everyday life. While no one keeps track, they number well into the thousands during our lifetime. Could you imagine our growth and learning’s if we took responsibility for just 50% of these situations? Now that just puts a whole new focus on things doesn’t? As you start taking more and more responsibility for things the less your urge to keep blaming others. Your bad habit starts to dissipate as the neural pathways of blame start losing their strength.

I wish you well in identifying your blame strategies and your strengths in taking responsibility from here onwards.


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