On this holiday weekend of giving thanks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the opposite: blame. Because it’s all your fault, you know. Just kidding. (Sorta.) Maybe it’s all my fault. Wait, that feels especially awful. I liked it better when it was your fault.
Michael Brown, author of The Presence Process, says that to blame is to be-lame. I don’t mean the slang definition of the word lame, as in “uncool.” I mean the actual definition, as in disabled, impaired, weak, inadequate. In other words, when you blame someone else for something, you are casting yourself in the role of the helpless, ineffectual, weak victim.
Which, by the way, is a very convenient role to cast yourself in when you wish to assume zero responsibility for the circumstances of your life. If you’re helpless, it’s GOTTA be the other person’s fault! The problem with this, of course, is that it’s a completely disempowering position to hold. If you are a helpless victim, there is nothing you can do to change your situation. Others will have their way with you. You are a mere feather in the wind, to be blown hither and tither at anyone’s discretion.
Gr0ss, right? But this is what we are saying about ourselves every time we blame anyone for anything.
Let me give you an example from my own life. I blamed my ex-boyfriend for destroying my once-thriving company and my once-excellent credit. But ultimately, I am the one who chose to sign on the dotted line for a predatory loan. I am the one who chose to divert my company’s funds into financing his projects. I am the one who allowed him to play a part in my decisions, even though I knew he was not particularly business savvy and he had his own agenda, which was not aligned with the success of my company.
Since I am still paying the price for these poor decisions, I still want it to be his fault. But to blame him is to declare myself a helpless victim, and that’s simply not the truth. I chose him as a partner, I gave him the power to influence my choices, I chose to invest in his projects. Sure, I was under the spell of love, but that’s still not his fault. Maybe I can blame my hormones?
Now here’s the part many of us get caught up on. Just because I don’t wish to b-lame, doesn’t mean he didn’t make choices that may have lacked integrity. Not blaming someone is not the same as condoning their behavior. But in order for me to be happy and move on and learn the lesson from this, I need to take full responsibility for what happened. If we stay stuck in blame, we aren’t able to receive the gift that is the lesson. And I learned many lessons from that experience. Too many to recount here.
Still, I have moments when the reality of my poor credit is especially poignant – like realizing I can’t go to grad school because my credit is so bad the government won’t give me the loans I need – and that’s when I tend to revert back to blame mode because having the heat all on me for creating this situation in my life is simply too much to bear.
But, this is where compassion is important. We can learn the lesson without lambasting ourselves. We can acknowledge that we made mistakes and screwed up without stepping into our suit of shame. Shame is simply blame turned on ourselves, and if you are living with MS, then your body is already doing enough attacking of itself. It doesn’t need you to add more fuel to its fire.
In fact, I am sure that my own penchant toward self-blame is precisely the energy that has created and continues to propagate MS in my body. Until I stop attacking attacking myself, my body is going to continue attacking itself. If I take full responsibility for this illness – if I stop blaming bad luck, bad genetics, a toxic environment, a corrupt food industry – then the only choice I have left is to look at how I might be creating this illness in my body. And to me, MS looks like the ultimate manifestation of a lack of compassion for oneself.
Exactly what will it take for me to finally let myself off the hook? What will it take for you to let yourself off the hook?
So on this Thanksgiving weekend, I’d like to remind you not just to be grateful, but to let go of anyone you may be blaming for something. I love blaming my ex-husband for being such a controlling, micro-managing, condescending, hot-tempered bastard. But how can I reasonably blame him when, as he often likes to remind me, I’m the one who walked halfway across New York City with a broken flip-flop to declare my love for him?
I invited him and his dominating ways into my life. So wouldn’t I be better served asking myself why I thought I needed or wanted that sort of energy in my life, rather than blaming him for being who he has always been? Isn’t the answer to that question the real lesson?
Oh, and one more thing before I go. If you consider all the people you blame for various things – from the President to your mom – then you must also realize that there are people in your life who are busy blaming you for their stuff too! It’s your job to not assume this blame. You can and should ask yourself how you may have been wrong. You can and should take responsibility and accountability if you believe it is due and that you were acting out of integrity. You can and should consider the feedback of others and how it might be true.
But don’t allow yourself to be blindly cast as the perpetrator in someone else’s victim story.
When you stop blaming and taking on others’ blame, you step into your full power. This takes courage, and it’s an important step to being a warrior. Take an honest look at how you have wronged others and how you have been wronged, and then take the lesson and the gift and let the rest go.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful this year to all of you who have supported me and taken the time to comment on this blog and write to me. Your attention, love, and continual support is deeply appreciated and I will work as hard as I can this year to bring even more valuable and inspiring content to you. I am so grateful that we are walking this path together.