Whose fault

Posted by Doc
Feb 03 2009

I’ve observed that we – human beings, homo sapiens, folks – have a tendency toward assigning fault and blame. I’m still struggling with this – both personally and intellectually.

Personally, I catch myself at it far more frequently than I’d like. I catch myself asking questions like “Whose fault is this?” rather than the question I much prefer: “How did we get here, and what did I do or not do that contributed?”

The idea of taking personal responsibility is an essential one in my life. It applies in my personal life, when dealing with family, friends and acquaintances.  And it applies in my professional life, when dealing with co-workers, colleagues, and business associates.

Assigning fault and/or blame is relatively easy to understand as a motivation – if it’s someone else’s fault, then it’s not mine, and maybe I can feel better about myself. Of course, in taking that approach, I abrogate responsibility for my own behaviors or inactions, and disguise my own contributions.

Sadly, it doesn’t really work. I don’t actually improve my self-image by passing off the fault. All I do is mask my own feelings of fear/inadequacy/responsibility/guilt.  Really, it doesn’t work.

What it does is build up a backlog of self-deception. That backlog will come to bite me. I will become defensive, aggressive, and hostile when I am approached – even kindly or lovingly – about any incident where I might have some responsibility. Why? Because I feel challenged to own up to my own dishonesty, and that’s just freakin’ hard.

Note that I say “responsibility”, not culpability, fault, or any other word that has judgment implied in it.

Responsibility is a good thing, and there’s no judgment attached to taking or accepting responsibility.  Only to denying or declining responsibility for my own behaviors.

The next time you find yourself looking for someone to whom to assign fault and blame, stop and ask yourself my question: “How did we get here, and what did I do or not do that contributed?”

Then, take action on your answer first before looking for someone else.

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