'Blame'

The job of trying to find meaning in a series of events that are happening to you, or anything you care about is the job of trying to put the pieces together and trying to make sense out of things. It requires you to be receptive, even somewhat passive.  You have to wait for the events to come to you, keep an open mind, and be prepared to find the unexpected in unexpected places.  At the same time, it also helps to be actively looking for certain kinds of clues and reasons.  While the purpose of understanding is to sweep up all the fragments and get underneath all the facts and illuminate and sharpen their meaning, it is also to impose and exclude other elements whose relevance often depends on their originality.  Nevertheless, in the course of collecting data, connections emerge.  Certain ideas are simply out there at any time, part of the collective consciousness that people in groups and organizations tap into, knowingly or not.

One trend I have found to be prevalent among children and politicians lately is when they are encountering a difficult situation, they blame.

Focusing on blame is bad idea. Not just because it can harm or injure relationships, cause pain or anxiety but also because blame inhibits our ability to learn from what’s really causing the problem and to do anything meaningful to correct it.  The urge to blame is based, quite literally, on the fear of being blamed. Too often, blaming also serves as a bad proxy for taking directly about what’s causing the pain.

Blame is about judging and looking backwards.  When blame is in play, you can expect defensiveness, strong emotions and arguments about what a “good boss,” “competent employee,” or any “reasonable person” should or shouldn’t do.  When we blame someone, we automatically assign to roles: we assume the role of the accuser and offer the blamed party the  role of the accused. 

That's not to say that the answer is “Don’t blame.” You can’t move away from blame until you understand what blame is, what motivates you to want to blame and accuse another person for your current or past situation, and how to move to something else that will better serve you.

That something else is contribution.  The question to be asked, and answered for each person, is, “how did we each contribute to bringing about the current situation or what did us each do or not do to get into this mess.”

As a rule, when things go wrong in human relationships, everyone has contributed in some important ways.  A common distortion is to see contribution as singular – that what has gone wrong is either entirely our fault or (more often) entirely theirs.  Except in extreme cases of child abuse, rape and genocide, almost every situation that gives rise to a conversation is the result of a joint contribution system.  Focusing on only one or the other of the contributors obscures rather than illuminates.