I see a terrible trend developing, the lack of personal responsibility and how it impacts those around us. Whether it is a national crisis or a fingernail breaks, we are quick to blame someone else. And it’s not limited to adults or politicians, if you have the opportunity to spend some time around children, especially in a group, you will frequently hear the excuse, “It’s not my fault.” While admittedly there are times when something truly isn’t our fault, more often than not there was an element of choice involved in the incident and we made it.
Blame doesn’t solve the problem or offer valuable insight; it just gets the spotlight off of us for a while and shines it on someone else. Passing along the blame to someone else doesn’t even make you feel good; it just makes more people feel bad.
Maybe our problem is comprehending the difference between blame and responsibility. Being responsible is being accountable, reliable, distinguishing right from wrong. Blame on the other hand involves putting the responsibility on someone else, accusing and (I love this part), failing to find sympathy or understand.
Here is a perfect example. At one time I needed to move my mother’s phone service from one room to another within a nursing home facility. Because my mother has severe dementia and I wanted to be able to check in with her without interruption of service, I called several days ahead to schedule the change and was assured there would be no problem. My mother was moved down the hall and no phone service. OK, I can be reasonable, so I check the next day, no service. After three days of no service, meaning I cannot check on my mother and she cannot call me, I called the phone company. I was told there was a problem with the initial order, and it would be another week before the phone was connected.
At this point I was still calm so I asked what the problem was and was told they really couldn’t say, but it was internal, nothing I did. I asked to talk to a supervisor, they gave me the same story, no one could tell me why but it would be, at the earliest, a week. I explained I was anxious about it taking so long because of my mothers dementia. I also pointed out that the move is down the hall in the same facility in a town of 2,000 people. How hard can this be? (Perhaps by now I am getting testy.) She can’t tell me anymore than that, would I like to talk to her district manager? Of course I would! After going relating my story and getting the same response I began to plead, “Can you understand why I am upset and concerned? This is a safety issue, my mother has severe dementia.” The very curt reply was, “Well my mother is dead.”
At that point I realized I was getting nothing from this exchange. Did I want to find out why it happened? Maybe a little, but more important to me was I wanted someone to understand, I wanted someone to say, ” I don’t know why this happened but I am so sorry and I will do what I can to fix it as soon as possible.” It wasn’t just that it was taking longer than expected; it was that with every call to the phone company all I heard was blame passing with no hint of empathy and understanding, no personal responsibility. I knew I couldn’t change the outcome, but I would have been satisfied to have someone treat me like a human being.
We all want the human touch. We all want to feel the incidents of life, big or small, matter. Every encounter with another human being gives us a chance to practice personal responsibility instead of passing blame. Sometimes it just requires being quiet and not adding to the whininess of the world.