Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blame is a many splendored thing.

My five year old has serious blame issues. She can be in a room all by her self and spill a glass of milk, and immediately blames someone else for it. Someone was saying something and distracted her, or someone put it in the wrong kind of cup, or someone shouldn’t have let her drink it there by herself. It’s really amazing how fast and definite the blame response occurs. With a five year old it is obvious and ridiculous. But with me, it is just obvious and ridiculous. Blame is an intoxicating device. It just works so well to deflect ownership and accountability. It is the perfect response to almost anything. There is always, as my five year old demonstrates, someone, or something to blame. And it doesn’t matter much if the blame is well placed or not. It only matters that it gives us cover. Blame is the exact opposite of accountability. Accountability is tough stuff. It requires we take ownership for our part in a situation. If we spill the milk, we recognize immediately that we alone did it. We then are responsible to what is necessary to clean it up. There is a principle I have been wrestling with a lot in the past years. It is an idea of absolute ownership for my response to everything that happens to me. Absolute. 100 percent. The idea goes like this: Ultimately, I am accountable for my response to everything that occurs to me. Clearly, I am not in control of very much of what goes on in the world at large. And of the events that take place in my little sphere or conscious interactions, I have only minimal control. It is also clear to me that in terms of my response, I am, in this one area, absolutely accountable. I own my response. If that response is blame, I own that. If it is accountability, I own that. I actually do have the capacity to choose. I admit, that most of the time my responses are knee jerk reactions. But that does not diminish the fact that I can choose from a mired of menu options. And one of the options is always personal accountability. I am imagining that all sorts of scenarios are going through your mind right now. Well, let me throw an example out. Let’s say I am in a bank cashing a check, and it gets robed and I get shot in the hand. I can’t work my trade anymore and I have tremendous hardship as a result of something that wasn’t my fault. Ok. Clear enough. Assuming I wasn’t trying to be a hero, or doing anything to put myself in harm’s way unnecessarily. I was just a pure and simple victim of the situation. How am I accountable for that? The absolute accountability idea is based on an awareness that we live in a world we do not control. Events occur, have occurred, and will occur, that will effect us, no matter what we do. The point is not that we are accountable for events beyond our control, but that we are absolutely accountable for our responses to what happens to us. So, here is how blame fits in to my little mishap scenario. I would be, by all rights, perfectly with in the norms of reason to blame all subsequent hardships on the events at the Bank. That is an option. But what are the benefits to me of using that option? Well, there are many. Blame gives me an excuse to cover almost anything I don’t want to do as a result of the incident. If I am lazy and don’t want to go to job retraining, I can blame the incident. If I feel bad about my lot in life, I can blame the incident. If I am irritable, and unpleasant to be around, I can blame the incident. Here is the beauty of blame. As long as we have something to blame we have a blanket clause for just about everything. If, however, I choose accountability for my response to the event, then suddenly, I have to deal with what I am doing in the here and now to make my life what I want it to be, given the constraints of what has become the new reality of my existence. This is a hard pill to take. But the alternatives, when examined, all involve not doing what we can in the moment. The blame alternative distracts us from the task at hand. Which, as I see it, is always to move within the conditions that are present in the moment? To use that mobility to make the next moment as close to what we want it to be as we can.

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