I meet a lot of people who consistently blame everyone and everything else. I also meet some people who are very into blaming themselves for everything that has ever happened to them.
There is no need to blame at all. It is quite possible to go through life without ever assigning blame.
That’s what I do.
Outside of the legal system and contract disputes, there is never a need to assign blame. When I look at my own life, there is no need to blame environmental, cultural or family factors for anything. I can always take maximum emotional responsibility for my own actions. And you can do the same, and you can do it without ever blaming yourself either.
Here is my favorite example. I use this example all the time when I preach in prisons. Let’s say that tomorrow morning I wake up and there is a baby left on my doorstep. Am I to blame? Of course not. Are my actions (or inaction) towards this baby my responsibility? Yes, they are. And I can take maximum responsibility for my choices without ever blaming anyone, including myself, the baby, whoever left the baby there, the family of the person who left the baby there, or whatever societal forces caused that family to…etc., etc., et cetera.
In fact, there is not even a need to think of things as good or bad. The baby on my doorstep does not need to be a good or bad event. The baby on my doorstep can just be a baby on my doorstep. Some things are good or bad, of course, but there is no need for everything to be either good or bad.
Binary thinking, the need to divide the world into good and bad, us versus them, victims and oppressors, guilty and innocent, it all stems from the survival-oriented 100,000 year-old brain that divides everything into threats and non-threats. Yes or no. 1 or 0. Good or bad. Threat or non-threat. That certainly made sense 100,000 years ago. Does it still make sense today?
Does binary thinking really still work in a modern society, or does it just increase drama, anxiety, rage and depression?
Letting go of blame and accepting maximum responsibility empowers you without making anyone else less powerful. It attracts people to you because you display a clear self. When I say that I am responsible for exactly the consequences of my own actions, even the consequences no one could have predicted, I am making it transparently clear who I am. I am telling everyone what I really stand for.
Aside from projecting, not so much strength, but just a vivid reality, letting go of blame also attracts people because they feel they will be better off being associated with you. No one wants to be associated with someone who is always going to blame them when things go wrong.
Does all this seem impossible? Does blame seem like a natural, instinctive reaction?
Well, blame is instinctive. It’s old. It’s ancient. But take up dancing or boxing, and your body will slowly learn movement patterns that are very non-instinctive. Your instincts can be overcome, tamed or channeled in new ways through disciplined practice.
Learning to undo the blame habit is the same as unlearning any other mental habit. Interrupt, interrupt, interrupt. When you feel yourself going down the path of blame, interrupt yourself. In addition, learn as much as you can about why you do what you do, why others do what they do, and why group dynamics work the way they do. The more you know, the easier it is to detect the flaws in binary thinking.
Finally, be honest with yourself. And force yourself to focus on results, not intentions or beliefs. The more I focus on results, the more obvious it is just how much of life is beyond anyone’s control. And the more I see that, the more important it is for me to take responsibility for whatever my own actions can affect.
And the more responsibility I take, the less need there is to blame anyone, including myself.