If it’s true that we often teach what we most need to learn, the subject of blame would be a big one on my curriculum. And clearly, it’s not just me. The need to find someone to blame, find fault in, criticize, is like a loud bullhorn in our society it seems. When I look inward, I can see that when I blame another or a condition – it’s usually when I am in emotional pain somewhere. Often I haven’t even acknowledged that I’m suffering in some way and the self-righteousness and superiority feelings of blame, cues me that I need to check in with myself and what pain I am avoiding feeling.
Here is what I feel blame is all about: it a way to avoid OURSELVES. It’s a refusal to deal with what’s really at the root of our anger or pain. Rather than dealing with our own pain, suffering, internal struggles – blame is so much easier! We don’t have to take responsibility for our own view on life when we blame. We put our attention on things that are really none of our business.
Also rolled up in blame is our human tendency to listen with the intent to REPLY, rather than listening with the intent to understand. Steven Covey’s well known book: “The 7 habits of highly effective people” in habit #5 says seek first to understand THEN to be understood. We often jump to conclusions without even really listening – waiting for the other person to just draw a breath so we can leap on the conversation with OUR 2¢. Rather than knowing that opposing views don’t have to be taken personally, we armor up with blame and criticism because to stay civil requires vulnerability. Not easy sometimes.
Novelist Tom Robbins once said there are only two mantras in life… “YUM” & YUCK” we are constantly commenting on what we think is a yum and what we think is a yuk. It can be as simple as commentary – “Oh, those shoes she is wearing are awful.” (A.k.a YUCK). We focus on others, conditions and our approving or disapproving when NONE of it has anything to do with us.
Blame works like this – we aim our focus on what we deem wrong or YUCK about a person, a behavior, a choice, and we spend time and energy building a case of why they are at fault. Why does this matter to us? How does this help us grow? How does it increase our own self-awareness? Let me just answer for you – it doesn’t. Blame is a form of stalling, a way to deflect our own feelings about our self and project them onto someone or something else.
Our relationship with our self is played out in every other relationship we have. Our opinion about our self is played out in our opinions of others. We give our power away when we blame. The power to grow, the power to understand someone else, the power to understand ourselves.
The day you stop blaming others is the day you BEGIN to discover who you truly are. And discovering who you really truly are is a HUGE job, crucial to a whole-hearted life. Why not invest that time and energy in YOUR OWN lesson, YOUR OWN journey. THAT would help not only you, but the entire planet. And if your blame is about feeling hurt by another person, instead if we could focus that energy on self-compassion, we can reduce our pain and suffering.
Let’s chat also about a version of blame, known as scapegoating. A few months ago, I was reading about this mentality in a daily inspirational message I get from Father Richard Rohr. He said some powerful things about this version of blame and it really got me thinking about how we humans seem to have a need to find someone to BLAME when we are in pain. I mean – my feeling of suffering can’t be MY fault – right? Then I’d have to take responsibility and end my victim mentality.
Here's a bit of what Richard said that stuck with me…
If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear (or blame). Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, (“bad”).
Wow. Let’s look at a couple of the points in this statement – if your ego is still in charge and you haven’t come to at least minimal awareness of your own stuff, you will BLAME, you will find a scapegoat to carry your pain so you won’t have to look inward. When we find a vulnerable person, group idea to blame or attack we have found our scapegoat. It's easy to see that prejudice springs from this mentality.
Blame is a refusal and it is also projection. When we don’t transform our pain – we TRANSMIT it, to others. We find a sacrificial goat – someone or something to blame, project our pain onto so we can think we are free of it, but the problem is - this doesn’t free us, it actually keeps us small and imprisoned in our resistance to own our emotional stuff. When we let the pain pass through us, rather than passing it off onto others, it lasts only about 30 seconds – I can show you studies that prove it. Grieving lasts a little bit longer; 90 seconds and may take a few rounds. But when we blame and scapegoat, the pain can last days, weeks, even life times.
One more quote from Richard Rohr on this: Spiritually speaking, no one else is your problem. YOU are first and foremost your own problem. There are no bad goats to get rid of. We are ALL tempted to project our problem, our painful feelings, our suffering onto other people. When we blame someone else, it gives you a false sense of moral superiority and outrage. You don’t have to grow up, let go, forgive, or surrender—you just have to accuse someone else of being worse than you are.
This is probably why blaming can become addictive or a groove in our brain that we go to over and over again – it gives us a rush of superiority. Added bonus! We don’t have to look at our own bullshit when we are busy blaming and complaining. It also becomes an pattern we repeat due to what we focus on. We could choose instead to forgive, create boundaries for ourselves, look within and learn to heal our suffering, but this takes WORK. Blame is much less labor intensive and requires no responsibility on our part.
Lord knows I have been the engineer, conductor and the passengers on the “blame train”. I have worked long and hard to drop my blame of my husband in our relationship challenges. I knew that blaming him was keeping ME stuck. Then I had to work through my blame of MYSELF in our relationship, learning to give myself compassion and find the lessons in what the conditions were and are. I’m not saying either of these two blame routes never ever happen for me any longer, but I know that it has changed our relationship with each other and more importantly my relationship with myself, for the better.
When we are in blame, we can’t hear the messages that are there for us. We are focused on the problem and when we focus there, we can’t hear or see the solution. Blame and commentary on every single thing that comes our way takes us out of being present with ourselves and as a result it blocks intimacy. We become deaf and blind to the information that could actually heal us because we are committed to a focus on blame or wrong-doing by others.
I've also certainly been on the receiving end of blame. Anyone who puts them self "out there" is bound to be an easy target for some blame. It's pretty painful in that moment to be sure, and it can be hard to stand in your center when you're getting blasted. When if feels as if someone's aim is to hurt you, it's hard. What I WANT to do in that moment is remember that hurting people - hurt people.
Unfortunately, what I usually do is a knee-jerk (human) reaction and try to defend myself. As you know, this doesn't work. It's just another version of refusal... just like blame. IF I can take a breath and look for the lesson or what vibe I am putting out that might be attracting the fire from someone, then I can learn rather than feel shamed or victimized. Letting it pass through is tough, but the fastest way forward, is through.
When you hear yourself blaming, and we will, it’s gonna happen… just notice that you are doing it. Don’t turn it into something to criticize yourself for. Just remind yourself that you are attempting to avoid your OWN transformation by your blaming. Within the attempt to off-shift our pain is a beautiful opportunity. A chance to heal something within ourselves if we will just let it come through instead of trying to avoid it with blame. Give yourself some compassion and just acknowledge that this stuff is hard! AND! you can rise above it.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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