Are You Seduced by Blame?

Kathryn Scanland Leadership

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. ~Dr. Robert Anthony
This week I had several instances where the contrast of blame vs. responsibility was brought to my attention.  I was especially intrigued by the idea that blame can be seductive, even extremely seductive. Some of the synonyms for seduce paint a vivid picture of what this seduction might look like: bait, beguile, betray, bewitch, bribe (and that’s only through the b’s!). Not exactly a positive image.
Like many things that aren’t good for us, blame can become addictive. If we persevere in making the case that someone (or something) is to blame for our problems, this perception can dramatically twist and blur our view of reality.
I recall an instance when this concept became very clear to me. A number of years ago I was considering becoming business partners with someone who owned a consulting firm. During my due diligence process I discovered a number of serious financial management concerns. When I asked the current owner about some of these challenges he blamed someone or something (like the economy) for each and every one of them. Then, without really thinking, I asked, “so, what are you actually responsible for?” Silence.
With that vivid example in mind, I began to quickly review my own actions, responses, etc. for a lack of responsibility that was substituted with a knee-jerk reaction to pass the blame. How often had I slipped into the very same pattern of pointing my finger toward someone else? I also realized that Dr. Robert Anthony is right.  When you blame others, you give up the power to change. And I’d add to that, you give up the power to change both yourself and the situation. So, it’s a lose/lose scenario.
The International Coach Academy says, “People who play the blame game may then unknowingly mentor others in the blame game. Families, workplaces and even whole societies can become infected and then trapped in a culture of blame.”
Hubert Humphrey said, “We believe that to err is human. To blame it on someone else is politics.” I’m not intending to make a political statement or take any kind of political position, but it does feel like our governmental officials have become trapped in a culture of blame. Could this be part of the reason we seem to be stuck in a lose/lose scenario; because we’ve given up the power to change?
I’m currently reading a book entitled The Happiness Project. The author engaged in an exhaustive study of happiness and then spent a full year testing many of the various theories. I find it quite interesting that nearly every “practice” she undertakes to achieve greater happiness involves increasing her “responsibility.”
While blame is both seductive and addictive, I’m struggling to find a positive outcome. Like many things that are seductive and addictive there is a very short-term “high” followed by continuous disappointment and frustration.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wise man that he is, said that “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
Leaders who are ready for responsibility have the power to change, both themselves and the situation.
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.
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