Finding Someone to Blame

Why Learning to Take Responsibility is Hard

{but absolutely necessary}

Side profile of a young woman pointing at a young man


By nature, we are blame shifters, buck passers, and we never ever want to be held responsible…especially if we “didn’t do it”.



We start at a young age learning how to tattle tale, or– in other words– make sure they know who is REALLY in trouble, because it sure shouldn’t be us.

Sometimes we’re telling the truth, and sometimes we’re so afraid of the consequences that we tell a little lie. Just big enough to get us out of trouble, but not too big that it would do any real damage. But at the root of it, we want someone else to be held responsible.




As we grow up these little habits turn from being a minor nuisance to an actual problem, into a way of viewing the world…a world where we “didn’t do it”. A world where someone else is to blame, and we carry these habits and ways of thinking into the work world, into our relationships, and into our everyday interactions.



“It wasn’t me” turns into “It’s not my fault,” “I shouldn’t be held responsible” or, my personal favorite, “It’s not my job.”



Nothing makes my blood boil more than walking into a business of any kind and hearing the line “that’s not my job.” It’s unprofessional, lazy, and says that you like working inside the box of status quo. Sure, some things might be outside of what your skill-set or job description are, and never mind that there are about 10 better responses than that one. But generally speaking it says, “I do what I’m “supposed” to do and not a single thing more. Engrave my name on that Employee of the Month plaque…I do the bare minimum” (okay, dramatic…but you get my point).

The issue is not whether it is or isn’t your job: It’s about refraining from passing responsibility into someone else’s hands and handling the situation the best you can.


The problem with passing the blame is that it creates a way of thinking that looks at responsibility, consequences, or conflict like the children’s game of hot potato: Pass it quick! Don’t like it, don’t want it, someone else can deal with it.




When it comes to blessing we don’t deserve, we are arms wide open. Someone in front of us paid for our coffee, they gave us a free appetizer for being regulars, or someone treats us to a random act of kindness that we really didn’t do anything to deserve. Bring. It. On.


But the things we don’t feel we deserve….a parking ticket when we were only in there for 5 minutes…someone cutting us off on the highway…getting overcharged for our meal…we are outraged. We need to right these wrongs immediately and set the record straight. We want our fair share, our rights, what is owed to us and nothing more {if it’s negative, of course}.



And if we continue to perpetuate the cycle of passing on responsibility to the next guy, it will never stop. Like the snowball effect of someone yelling at us, turning our mood sour, so then we turn around and do the same thing to the next person. I can’t tell you how many times I simply answer the phone at work and get an ear full because something happened and it’s “not their fault.” Is it mine? How do I respond? Rude + Rude does NOT equal problem solved (although in the moment, it’s pretty tempting).



The other day a lady hung up on my coworker and then immediately called back demanding and apology for treating her rudely. Not kidding. We live in a self-centered world where we find logic in that sort of behavior.




My husband and I sometimes get stuck arguing like 5-year-olds… “that wasn’t nice!” “well… you weren’t nice first!” It’s embarrassing. And honestly not the way we want to treat each other. The whole idea of mercy–not getting what we do deserve–is great as long as we are on the receiving end. Heaven forbid we have to show it. That we have to refrain from treating someone poorly because we were. That we apologize when we really didn’t do it. That we do our best to smooth things over and make amends when we feel wronged.



Because that sort of thinking, the kind that wants to be a peacemaker rather than a score keeper, is the kind that can be a catalyst to change. 




And part of this means re-thinking what life owes us. The rights we believe we have when we get treated poorly at work, argue with our friends, or disagree with our partner. How guilty we really are when we get a speeding ticket or fined for a payment received late. Those rights and how we believe we should be treated, spoken to, or dealt with play a big part in how quickly and easily a situation can escalate when we feel wronged.


Taking ownership and responsibility–regardless of fault–is radical, wonderful, and could change our worlds.






I mentioned before that we’re in the process of buying a home. We are up to our eyeballs in paperwork, meetings, negotiating, and learning so many things we didn’t know before. There are so many moving pieces and LOTS of twists and turns. In a particularly frustrating meeting last week, I watched my husband humbly apologize for something we both knew wasn’t either of our faults. And do you know what happened? Everyone exhaled. The room got lighter and peace entered. It was so sweet. Did he need to apologize? No. But when he did, it changed things. I was ready to let them apologize, but good thing I married a better man.



It’s not about finding who to blame, or making sure someone else gets held responsible. It’s about coming into adulthood with humility, grace, and taking ownership…even if it’s “not our fault”.







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