Don’t Get Fooled Into the Blame Game
I’ve written about this topic before as it relates to couples counseling, but it applies to so many areas of life. Many years ago I was involved in a friendship struggle. Futile drama. As the silent treatment from this other lady lasted for months, I started to blame her for life’s inconveniences. It got so bad that I even suspected that she was paying a neighborhood kid to knock on the nursery window and wake up my baby in the middle of the night. Crazy? Yes. I was being over-dramatic. But I was so hurt by her actions from years past that it was too easy in my sleep-deprived, new mom mind to blame her somehow. Blame is easy, and it reduces self-responsibility. That is what makes blame so dangerous.
In friendships and families, the blame game can be even more destructive. It’s too easy to think how advice can apply to other people – blaming them instead of seeing the big picture. How often have we listened to a sermon at church and thought, “I hope Bobby is listening to this talk. He totally needs this advice” instead of applying the words to ourselves?
Blame is “deceitfully liberating.”
Blame allows you a precarious freedom.
Blame is a counterfeit feeling of release.
It’s all the other person’s fault, right?
You can wash your hands of it, because there’s nothing more you can do, right?
The frustration you feel is not due to your own guilt, right?
It’s clearly the result of the other person’s fault, right?
Blaming others merely stokes your ability to rationalize your fault away, especially in regards to relationships! Friendships, co-worker relationships, neighborhood ties, familial bonds – they all require more than one person. Relationships are improved and deteriorated by both sides.
Can people be mean? Of course they can. Do people purposely try to hurt us? Sometimes.
Does that mean you can blame them for the relationship turning sour? Not really. You played a role in the big picture too. Your deeds along the way built up to this moment.
Years ago, as a waitress, there was a fellow waiter that I despised. I hated working shifts with Jorrell. One day, we had a fight across the restaurant, and I ended up in tears. My wise manager explained to me that just because Jorrell did things differently, it didn’t mean either of us was wrong or right. We simply completed our staff chores differently. The manager encouraged us both to see the good in each other. A few months later, Jorrell moved away, and I was happy. We had only learned to tolerate each other. As luck would have it, one year later Jorrell came back to the restaurant. Something had changed, and we got along great! We even joked with each other about our rocky past. It seemed as if time allowed us both to see the positive sides of each other. I really enjoyed working with Jorrell this time. I learned to love his talents and quirks.
Love can eventually overcome blame, but it takes time.
1. First, you have to replace the blame with self-awareness. Own your part of the problem in relationships. Own up to your mistakes.
2. Develop empathy by pondering about the other person. How was their opinion formed over time? In what areas are they right? How have you contributed to their suffering, whether intentional or not? “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it,” writes Stephen R. Covey.
2. Apologize. But know that an apology is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” There are lots of ways to ruin an apology by casting unapologetic blame, such as apologizing that the person “feels” a certain way. The common statement, “I’m sorry you feel angry,” is not an apology. It is actually kind of a mockery. He or she is allowed to have feelings. Instead, apologize for your own behavior. Try not to use an apology as a way to justify yourself. Sending a note that further explains why “you are right, and they are wrong” is unhelpful. Remember, the apology should come from love – not justification.
Don’t get fooled into playing the Blame Game.
If blame has disrupted your relationships, open your heart. Listen to the other party. Hear their heartbreak. Apologize where you can, and show love. Overcome blame with love and self-awareness. Allow other people to heal on their own timeline.
Again, please don’t finish reading this post thinking, “Sally needs to read this so she’ll get over our disagreement.” Apply these words to yourself, and enjoy more vibrant loving relationships.