Fault, Fear, and Responsibility...

I'm sure you've experienced that sinking, hole-in-your-stomach feeling that comes along with making a mistake. There's also a good likelihood that you -- like so many of us -- reacted in a fear-based mindset of externalizing blame for that very mistake, too. You're not a bad person for doing so; fear had taken over, working to preserve your "safety" (really, it's ego) by not owning up and taking responsibility. The funny thing about blame, though? When you're pointing a finger at someone (or something) else, three are pointing right back at you...

Ok, I won't hit you with cheesy aphorisms through this whole post, but there was a quote that inspired it that I'd like to share:

"A pointed finger is a victim's logo."

- Josephy Brodsky

A mindset of fear, and one of blame, very easily lead to a victim mentality. One where you're never fully wrong in any given situation. Maybe you stubbed your foot, or a key on the keyboard was stuck, or a black cat crossed your path -- whatever it was, something else caused the mistake.

I remember a moment from my youth that fits this rather well -- even if it's not as serious as a work-related mishap, or relationship quandary. I don't remember my exact age, but I was too young to be swearing all willy-nilly. The doorbell rang, and my brother and I were downstairs. Why I said it -- and so loudly -- I'll never know, but in a rather commanding voice, I ordered my brother to, "Go see who the hell that is!" Needless to say, my mother (who was in the process of going to answer the door) was.... less than pleased... with my choice of words. Once the visitor was bid adieu, I stood rather guiltily in front of my mother, and she asked exactly why I used such language (my mother is an absolute sweetheart, but the tension I felt from the questioning was much heavier than I've let on...). I proceeded to stammer a bit, fear setting in heavily, and the best excuse I could come up with was to blame her hearing for being wrong (side note: I'm sorry about that, mom); I maintained that I said, "heckle", not, "hell", so I wasn't technically swearing. Yeah, that didn't play out to my benefit, as lying about what I said only further added to the frustration.

Blame, fault, and taking responsibility for our actions can be complicated. We fear judgement, scrutiny, punishment, disapproval, and many other negative emotions, and will often react by externalizing fault. In doing so, we don't really learn how to correct our behaviour, work, language, or expression, and instead rely on our reactionary process -- based in fear -- to handle the situation. It may not be pleasant to admit when we're wrong, or when we've made a mistake, but it's so powerful to accept responsibility at those times. Instead of trying to escape and skirt by a "close call", we empower ourselves to grow and become better by acknowledging and accepting where we're responsible.

In this way, we've become responsive rather than reactionary, which is a key mindset shift to avoid a victim mentality. Even if we're wrong, admitting that fact allows us to claim our own power and place. Choose to be proactive in your responses, assist in rectifying whatever wrong has happened, and then set about identifying the cause; but when looking for it, do so from a place that creates learning, growth, and acceptance -- not by adopting a logo that looks no good on anyone.