Recently, my son and I were 2 minutes late to his karate class. I knew as we pulled into the parking lot that he would not want to go in, even though I could see through the big window that class had not started yet.
“Look!” I said. “Class hasn’t started yet. We can still make it on time.”
No dice. My son knew by the time he got in there and got his boots off and his belt on, class would have started. He refused to get out of the car.
“Sometimes people are late,” I said. “It happens.”
“It’s your fault,” my son said. “You wanted me to eat supper before we came.”
“Your right, Son,” I said. “I did. It’s my fault. How does that help?”
It doesn’t, really.
Brene Brown, a researcher storyteller, defines blame as “a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”
I think of it as the equivalent of swearing when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
Knowing this, I took the blame, and tried not to push back.
I hope my son felt a little better after telling me it was my fault we were late. I hope he “discharged” some of his pain and discomfort.
Since I heard Brene Brown discuss blame, I don’t mind so much being blamed for things. Her definition, based on her interviews and research, showed me that blame doesn’t have anything to do with me—unless I’m the one doing the blaming. Then it’s all about me.
Once when I was assisting in an abdominal surgery, I was holding a retractor that was holding back the abdominal contents so the surgeon could see the aorta (which is at the back of the abdomen, near the spine.) As the surgery was many hours long, occasionally things shifted and blocked the surgeon’s view of the aorta. I readjusted the retractor and the surgeon continued working.
After the surgery, the surgeon said to me: “I don’t want to blame you, but it took longer because you couldn’t keep the abdominal contents retracted.”
At the time, I was insulted and felt I had been judged unfairly.
Knowing Brene Brown’s definition of blame allows me to see this surgeon’s frustration, and to realize his comment was his way of discharging that frustration. It wasn’t about me at all.
The next time you find yourself blaming someone else, try to pause and notice the emotion you are feeling. Can you sit with the frustration, anger, or sadness, rather than lash out at another?
The next time someone blames you, try to pause and notice what the other person is feeling. Can you allow their frustration, anger, or sadness to wash over you and move past you, without reacting to it?