Blaming can feel so good…at first! It is a “gotcha” moment – a spontaneous and fleeting expression of aggression. Blaming is a chance to deflect attention away from you. After an event like a divorce, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one to whom you devoted your time and energy, you may feel a shift from grief to blame in order for you to make sense of your experience.
When events like this happen we are asked to change our entire lives to pivot in a way we did not choose. We may end up framing the situation in terms of black and white, right and wrong, and at fault or innocent. Blaming makes us feel righteous and morally superior. But blaming can also blind us to the part we played in the situation leading up to the incident. And, it is an emotional dead-end. It brings with it an element of shame and of being “defective.” It victimizes others and negates our status as honorable human beings. We also give up our ability to have any power in changing our circumstances at all when we point fingers and lay blame.
We can get addicted to blaming whether directed toward others or ourselves. Blaming is an emotion more than a rational decision and we can easily find scapegoats, real or imagined, who always seem available to take the blame. If we do enough blaming, it becomes our subtle go-to solution for almost every problem we encounter, even the ones we ourselves create.
Unlike blaming, taking responsibility usually does not feel that great right away. This is because taking responsibility is not a spontaneous emotion like blaming. It is a deliberate and conscious decision that emanates from your heart and your conscience. As such, it influences you as a positive choice you are making and not simply a reaction.
When you take responsibility for being at least partially involved in the outcome of a situation, you acknowledge what you might have done differently to influence a more beneficial outcome for everyone involved. Perhaps, without beating yourself up, you can see how you may have fallen short, and you may be able to dispassionately, and compassionately, identify how you think others may have as well. When you take responsibility, you seek a mutual dialogue: You consult, listen, discuss, compromise, and seek a solution both you and the other party can agree on, given the circumstances. Blaming short-circuits this process and appeals solely to your pride. Blaming also deflects attention from taking care of yourself—attending to your own needs—and instead has you focus on the shortcomings of others. When you blame, you end up wasting a lot of energy feeling you must change other people, all the while languishing emotionally and spiritually.
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Text and artwork copyrighted by Michael Parise