Day 18: Blame

Whenever something bad happens, our first reaction is always to figure out who to blame.

Why is this the case? Shouldn’t our first reaction to be solve the problem?

The reason is it is so much easier to immediately blame somebody else than to admit fault or determine exactly what happened. If we look at a problem for too long, we might even find out that we were partially responsible. And that is unacceptable.

When a problem wasn’t caused by us, we have no dog in the fight. We sit outside the issue as the omniscient, sinless judge, shaking our heads disapprovingly. Anything we do to fix it should be applauded as heroic, selfless, and going beyond the call of duty. After all, this wasn’t our mess to clean up, but we did it anyway. Where is that parade we deserve?

Combine this with the fact that people in power often say things like: “Whoever owns up to this will be punished less than if I have to find out the hard way…”

No they won’t! They’ll be blamed for something they probably aren’t fully responsible for and will be forced to face some ridiculous consequences just so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief that blame has finally been assigned. In the same way, police and prosecutors always want to open and shut cases as quickly as possible by pressuring people to confess, even when the suspect’s guilt is dubious at best.

Blame is analogous to the occasional bear who walks into a residential neighborhood: very few of us are going to even consider doing anything about it, but we’re so glad when someone finally does. (Even then the blame can be unclear. Who is responsible for that bear coming into the neighborhood? It can’t be us due to our rampant deforestation practices. It can’t be the bear’s fault. Is it the President’s fault? God’s? Oh man, another puzzle to solve. I’ll feel so much better once someone on the Nextdoor app tells me who’s responsible).

Let’s all try this, myself included: let’s take responsibility for everything, good or bad (no matter how illogical) that happens to us for an entire day. From the minute we wake up, we are responsible for everything and we will not blame anyone else, no matter what. (Philosopher William James actually performed this experiment for a full year. It’s detailed in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson).

If we saw everything through this lens, how different our world could be.

If you do try it, let me know what your experience was like.

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