We have a contractor named Joe who does some amazing work for us. Once, when we were having an issue with some lighting in our shed, Joe came out to assess the problem.
“Was anyone here digging recently?”
“Did someone change this?”
After some time troubleshooting with Joe around the yard and in the shed, we still couldn’t find the source of the trouble. With resignation and a wry smile, Joe finally commented, “Well, the important thing is to know where to point the finger of blame.” We both had a good laugh and eventually Joe set things aright, as he always does.
Blame is so often our first response to a problem, isn’t it? Think about these song lyrics:
“Blame it on the rain.” (Milli Vanilli, 1989)
“Blame it on my ADD.” (AWOLNATION, 2010)
“Blame it on the alcohol.” (Jamie Foxx, 2011)
“Blame it on the night.” (Calvin Harris, 2014)
But whatever you do, don’t make me take personal responsibility for my actions. It must have been someone else’s fault or mitigating circumstances. But I am certainly not the bad guy here.
What would happen if we didn’t blame someone else or the rain or the alcohol or the night or our ADD, PMS, etc.? How liberating might it be to say, “Yep. I did that. I’m sorry.” Would the transparency disarm others and draw them in? Would we usher in an era of honesty and personal accountability? How might it transform the quality of relationships with our spouses, friends, family, and colleagues?
My experience has been that admitting fault in conversations about past hurts and misunderstandings deescalates the emotions of the discussion and allows the person speaking to truly feel heard and understood. Conversely, casting blame obfuscates a situation, leaving both people feeling dissatisfied and dubious about the other’s motives and integrity.
There are obviously times when you should NOT state something is your fault immediately. Car accidents, legal issues, etc. should be carefully assessed to find a responsible balance between accountability and prudence. But in the majority of our day-to-day interactions, let’s try taking the blame and see what happens. After all, the rain, the night, the alcohol, and ADD can’t experience the profound satisfaction that comes from being forgiven. We can.