When things don’t go the way you would like, when mistakes are made and problems arise are you someone whose default is to look for a person to blame?
New York Times best-selling author, researcher and gifted communicator Brene Brown is an authority on this subject and I recently watched a video where she talks about blame. Brene illustrated the danger of having a blame mindset by drawing from an example in her own life. After absent-mindedly spilling a cup of coffee over her clothing, her immediate response was to blame her husband Steve. What was surprising was that Steve was not even in the same room at the time, let alone close enough to have caused her mishap. However, this incident quickly set off a chain reaction in Brene’s thought processes that led her to ultimately attribute this incident to the fact that her husband arrived home later than expected the night before. In her mind if Steve had been home on time, she would have got to bed earlier and not been so tired, which led to her clumsiness that morning. A big stretch!
The sad thing was that as I watched this I found myself identifying with this blame mindset. And like Steve, my poor husband is often the person who gets the blame for the things that go wrong at our house. It seems that it is human nature for us to look to attribute fault when something goes wrong, yet this behavior is not only unhelpful but it is also unhealthy and can put unnecessary strain on our relationships.
Based on her research on this topic, Brene Brown asserts that blame is actually the discharge of anger and pain and has an inverse relationship with accountability. People who blame a lot often fail to take responsibility for their actions and therefore are not actively working towards a resolution as they fail to recognise the role they have in correcting the problem. This sense of powerlessness is what fuels the negative emotions around the situation and attributing fault is our way of trying to get some of that control back but in an unproductive way.
I am sure we can all think of examples in our own lives when we have been too quick to point the finger at someone else when things go wrong. Yet the Bible confirms that this approach is not part of God’s best plan for our lives. “Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done” (Romans 2:2 The Message Bible).
As a Christian community we are committed to teaching the students in our care about the importance of taking responsibility for their actions. This is best done by focusing on those things that are within our realm of influence rather than using those that we can’t control as an excuse for inaction. The biggest challenge for all of us adults though is to make sure that we are actively modelling this behavior in our own lives.
It’s not as easy as it may seem but the results are worth it.