Blame can be contagious — a conclusion reached by a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. This was no surprise to me, since we live in a culture of blame and see "blame" played out in the news every day.
I dare say we’ve all pointed fingers at some point in time to a person, place or thing as an excuse for our misery or a problem. And whether or not you or I believe we were justified in that blame doesn’t matter.
In the book of Genesis, we read that Adam blamed Eve when the Lord confronted him about eating the fruit he had been told to stay away from. (Genesis 3:12) But did Eve cram the fruit in his mouth? Did she force him to eat it? At least Eve told the truth and owned up to her mistake. Adam made a choice as surely as Eve did!
If we are ever going to learn to be good problem-solvers, then we need a shift from finding fault to taking responsibility.
Pointing a finger is a way to pass the buck in an attempt to protect our own self-image perhaps — another finding in the study. Yet blame becomes an excuse, a justification, a defense — a bad habit — and keeps focus away from making the effectual changes that solve a problem.
"The dog ate my homework" excuse does not excuse you from doing your homework. Whether the excuse is truth or lie is inconsequential. Either you get your homework completed and turned in for a grade or you get a zero. The consequence is going to be the result of the choice you make.
Noted Jewish-American trial lawyer, Louis Nizer once said, "When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself." We must sooner or later own up to our own mistakes and learn the lessons needed to not repeat them. Maybe the dog really did eat our homework, but maybe we left our homework on the floor in the first place.
But again, where the fault lies is not of immediate importance. What matters most — or at least first and foremost — is what we do to correct and resolve what needs fixing. We must get our homework done even if we have to start over from scratch!
Getting trapped in a cycle of blame distorts objectivity, clouds reason and almost always results in a power struggle. Problem-solving demands respect for other viewpoints along with a recognition that there is not only one way to reach a solution. So we must break the blame chain in order to make any needed changes.
We need to move beyond the "It’s not my fault" victim mentality and imbibe the humility, grace and courage to do whatever it takes to accomplish change, progress, and success. As long as we think of ourselves as a victim, we remain so and accomplish little or nothing.
Parents often blame their child’s teachers, friends, television or music for a behavior problem or for attributing to a learning difficulty. And they often blame themselves and ruminate over what they have done wrong. The problem, again, with all of the blaming is that it takes the attention and focus away from where it should be — on the child and meeting the child’s needs.
My approach to teaching as a public school teacher and as a homeschool teacher was the same. I believed that anything could be learned. If my children were failing or having difficulty mastering a skill or subject, then it was the teaching method that needed to be changed to better meet the child’s learning style and needs. It wasn’t that the children were dumb or incapable of learning. It wasn’t that I was a bad teacher. The solution was to adapt and continue to try a new approach until mastery was achieved.
Opportunities are available and success can be reached. The road may appear easier or faster for some than others. It may or may not be fair. Some may have more hurdles to overcome. So be it. I’ve often said and proven in my own life, difficult does not mean impossible.
There is much that needs fixing in our country and world today. My prayer is that we stop playing the blame game. Stop the excuse making and start problem solving. Nothing is so hard that it can’t be done. When we open our hearts and minds to believe that anything is possible, solvable and attainable, then it will be so.
Annette Bridges is a freelance writer who lives on a north Texas ranch with her husband, John. A mother and former public and homeschool teacher, she doesn’t think her insights are any more special than yours. But she believes we need to share what we’re learning with one another, and we need especially to share our insights with our children! First published by the Dallas Morning News after becoming an empty nester when her daughter left for college in 2001, she has since written weekly columns for numerous websites, newspapers and magazines. Visit her website and participate in her blog at http://www.annettebridges.com