From Blame to Responsibility: Taking Ownership of Your Problems

Holding small bunch of flowers ready to plant in soilI, like many other people, grew up in a less-than-ideal environment. The circumstances got in the way of my personal development. At the same time, that environment contributed to and shaped the person that I have become.

I could assign blame for my problems and unhealthy decisions on my childhood or my parents or my teachers. However, any such statement would be unrealistic and untruthful. The fact is my parents did the best they could considering their limitations (challenges, information, copying skills, abilities, etc.). My parents provided me with many of the values I possess today and will always be my greatest teachers. Yes, my parents have made some decisions I wish they wouldn’t have, but to blame them demonstrates a narrow and limited perspective—and, more importantly, takes away any personal responsibility on my part.

Blame outsources solution and responsibility. It is often used to divert attention from ourselves, and hands control over our life to something or someone else. As such, blaming and condemnation only create pain and breed resentment and further anger.

The tendency to blame is driven by our inability to foresee a better way of dealing with a distressing situation. We tend to blame when we are in distress because it allows us to preserve the self-satisfying narrative of helplessness/victimhood and self-righteousness. We excuse our shortcomings as the result of other people’s wrongdoings or actions.

In his book, Anger: The Inner Teacher, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin quotes Chazon Ish as saying:

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A wise man will not get angry at an insane person who wrongs him. This should be our attitude towards someone who wrongs us because of a lack of spiritual sensitivity and lack of good character. There is really no difference between a person who lacks sanity and a person who behaves improperly.

Responsibility requires pivoting from blaming external factors to empowering internal forces. There is no point in blaming. Besides, blame amplifies anger and moves us away from responsibility toward victimhood. The stance of victimhood is a powerful and rigid one, as the victim is always morally right and forever entitled to sympathy.

Your own mistakes are part of the universality of the human condition; the disturbances you experience in life are similar to the experiences of others. This commonality can be used to accept others.

Everyone in life does what they know how to do given the conditions of their lives. We will never know exactly where people came from or what circumstances they grew up in or are experiencing now. Perhaps they experienced abuse as a child. Maybe they were bullied at school. What if they are currently in a relationship that is belittling and demeaning?

When you are willing to accept total responsibility for every facet of your life, you are able to live life open to possibilities and to let go of the need to blame others. Conversely, if you repeatedly blame your mother, your husband, your president, or anyone else for your situation, it’s harder to be happy and at peace.

Letting go of blame is not easy. Keep in mind, though, that letting go of blame toward someone who has wronged you does not mean you let that person off the hook. It simply means you are concerned with the here-and-now and being responsible for your own future actions. You are choosing not to judge the other person. You are choosing instead to be responsible and move toward freedom.

Seeing your challenges in others and watching them battle the same irritations and frustrations you have dealt with can be a gateway toward greater tolerance and empathy. Your own mistakes are part of the universality of the human condition; the disturbances you experience in life are similar to the experiences of others. This commonality can be used to accept others. It can also be used as a guide to learn to respond with greater understanding and compassion rather than blaming.

The training ground for compassion is experiencing difficult feelings and sensing that your sense of self and its safety are being compromised. When you reach out with compassion to your worst enemy, it can trigger deep fears. These are opportunities to learn about yourself and develop equanimity, forbearance, and responsibility.

If you blame yourself, others, or circumstances for your conditions, you are resisting reality. This is a position from which you cannot create. Accept reality and take responsibility for your life. Empower yourself to create the life you want. If you need help or guidance, contact a licensed therapist.

Reference:

Pliskin, Z. (1997). Anger: the inner teacher. New York: Mesorah Publications Ltd.

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