Thursday, November 01, 2007

Musings On Blame

You're emphatically not at the mercy of those who push your buttons. They
don't have to control how you react; you don't have to give them the power
to determine what you think or do. You must take control of yourself and
your emotions, and learn that blaming others for your own insecurities and
fears is fruitless. -- Gary Smalley (via email from

I am amazed at the things I understand now that I have a little age on me. I always heard that would be true, but, of course, no young man believes that could possibly be so. Years ago, I was very sure of a lot of things I'm not so sure about any more, but other things have a clarity today that wasn't possible back then.

Part of this is coming to understand myself. This will likely be fairly difficult for me to explain, for I don't really want to take the time or the space to write a book on all this, but let me say that one thing I have always tried to do is figure out "me." Figuring out everybody else is easy in comparison, after all, I can exercise all the preconceived notions, prejudices, and lazy assessment I want if we're talking about you. And I could do all that with me, but it would really be a waste, for if I truly want to understand myself, I have to be ruthlessly honest. Not easy, but so worthwhile. I highly recommend this approach to you, but I digress.

In a lot of ways, my life is no different than anybody elses. In other ways, the particulars of my life experiences are unique to me, and not one other person shares them. I've had my share of good things and bad, rewarding things and stuff that cost me plenty. I've paid my dues in a thousand ways, but with some things I'm still in debt. I have experiences that I wouldn't trade away for all the money in the world. Some others I'd pay you to take them.

I think it does every living person good to perform a self-assessment every now and then. Why are you where you are and how did you get here and why? Now, listen carefully, for if you do this the wrong way, you can quickly learn why the baseline topic of this article is "blame." Some of us can only explain ourselves in terms of blame. Of course, this only works when the result has been negative. In other words, if I am facing something hurtful, damaging, uncomfortable, unpleasant, etc., then it's easy for me to blame somebody for the way life has turned out. I can blame people as easily as anybody else. It seldom works in reverse though. I'm not in the habit of "blaming" others when things turn out just dandy.

I will tell you that it's not easy admitting to bad decisions, weak will, ignorance, misplaced trust, lack of ability, or general stupidity. Frankly, I'd rather blame somebody else. But blaming others prevents me from learning, improving, changing, overcoming, and moving on. Blame gets you stuck right where you are. Of course other people do bad things that affect us, and when they do it's their fault. Of course bad circumstances happen that none of us can control, and when those things happen, we can rightly say, "I got that black eye when the door swung shut on me before I could dodge it." It's one thing to correctly assess the situations of one's life and quite another to get stuck putting the fault elsewhere.

My doctor keeps telling me I need to lose weight. "If you would lose some weight, we could probably reduce most if not all these medicines you're on," he says. Whose fault is it that I need to lose weight? My wife's a great cook, so it's her fault. I often have to eat out, on the run, so it's the fault of the fast food places. Sometimes when I come home, I'm just tired and worn out, and I grab anything available and eat fast, so I can blame my schedule. That one's easy isn't it?

The wisdom that has arrived with age, however, forces me to stop blaming anyone, including myself, for blame isn't a very productive kind of thing. Personal responsibility, however, is quite another thing. I'm learning to be personally responsible, and I wish I'd learned it better a long time ago.

I won't bore you with all the details. Some of the things I must wrestle with are just that - boring, and you wouldn't spend time reading about them. Others might just be a tad juicy, though, you might be tempted to drool a while before gossiping to somebody else. A few selected things might actually be helpful, but if there any, I'll share them personally with those I think could benefit. Bottom line, I'm just saying that I think all of us fall prey to the "blame game" occasionally, but we need to do better.

If you're stuck on blaming others for your misfortunes, let me encourage you to develop a wiser approach to dealing with your "stuff." You can't do anything about others, but you can do everything about yourself. Here's hoping you'll join me on this wide-open adventure of self-understanding. I don't always like what I see, but when I don't I get to do something about it. I'm learning that's a far wiser and more productive way to live than the seething boil-over of blame.