Every year, I remind you to think ahead about how you will handle difficult family issues during the holidays. Why? Because this is one time of year we want to build positive memories. We intentionally get together despite our conflicts and upsets with each other. Let’s do our best to make this time of year […]
Blame. We hear it on a daily basis now. No matter what you listen to or watch, someone is blaming someone for something. Frankly, I am tired of it. It is exhausting in the national discourse and it certainly doesn’t work in relationships. When relationships falter, look for signs of blame. Highly defensive people blame others for their own issues.
Blame often has to do with poor self-regulation. You make a mistake or something doesn’t go well and you don’t take responsibility. Instead, you externalize. “It wasn’t me! Had to be someone else.” When you blame, you are always the victim. It’s always someone else’s fault. Which by the way, seems to be the regular discourse of politics these days. But if you want to build relationships across the aisle with your spouse or political enemy, blame is not the winning strategy.
One of the ways we blame is to bring up the past. “Last year, you refused to take a vacation.” “Two years ago I couldn’t get you to talk to me at all.” “Life was miserable when the _____ were in power….” What do statements like this do to any relationship? Nothing good. Throwing the past in someone’s face creates even more animus. At a time in our history when we are trying to calm the public, blame keeps the temperature hot.
Blame is about misery. It’s being unhappy with life or aspects of it. It’s something we do when we feel defensive. It feels protective against our own feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness. And blame is one way to save face when you’ve made a mistake. It’s a false way to take control of the story. The problem is no one likes to be around a blaming person.
And here is a frightening thought. The more we blame, the more we do it. Basically, we carve those neural pathways in our brain and blame easily becomes our default or go-to when stressed. Furthermore, blame is contagious. This is one reason it feels so dangerous in our public discourse. It allows people to not take responsibility.
The way you stop blame is to take responsibility for your actions. Imagine for a moment if politicians actually did this. For example, “We tried that policy and it didn’t work. We are going to try another strategy.” This type of approach allows you to think constructively. New solutions can be found. We, the public, would benefit from the end of the blame game.
Whatever you are unhappy about, do something about it NOW. Stop throwing up the past to deal with the present. Honestly, in this election cycle, there is so much blame, it’s hard to know what solutions are being offered. And in a relationship, the same is true. If you blame, you aren’t offering options NOW to make things better.
Another solution is to develop compassion and self-reflection. We are human and make mistakes. Can we extend a little grace to others when things don’t go exactly as we like? And can we stop and reflect on why we are so angry? Maybe it has to do with a loss of power or control. Stop telling the story in a way that shifts blame.
Basically, just stop the attacks! It’s hurtful to those around you. Apologize to those you have hurt with blame. When you do, you take a step toward reconciliation and healing.
In the end, blame has a cost to all relationships. It puts down other people. Damage is done and trust is lost. You can’t be vulnerable when fingers are constantly pointed at you. And you can’t enjoy the normal give and take of healthy relationships.