Don’t Let Blame Keep You From Change

“Everyone is responsible and no one is to blame.” – Will Schutz

Recently, we started a “blame jar” in our home. It’s kinda like a “swear jar,” only it’s not for swearing. It’s for blaming.

And it’s kind of a big deal for us. We don’t typically use a lot of the little parenting tricks and gimmicks – chore charts, allowances, prizes – that I see so often. Instead, we choose to set lofty expectations, intentionally communicate those expectations, offer praise when they meet them, discipline when they do not, and remain consistent to a fault. It works for us… although I’ll be the first to admit we have been blessed with some pretty compliant kids.

But recently, blaming has become a problem in our home. It almost always occurs the exact same way: My wife or I will notice one of our kids misbehaving. We’ll take the opportunity to point out the unhealthy action or attitude. And the response will sound something like this, “But, mom, she was the one who <insert blame here>.” As if, somehow, the unhealthy action or attitude was not actually chosen by the child being corrected but is somehow the fault of another.

I fully realize, of course, this blame game is not a new one. It is not unique to my children. Regardless of our age or family of origin, we are all guilty of using it far too often. It is a defense mechanism as old as wrong itself. Literally… in the story of Adam and Eve when they are questioned about eating the apple, Adam immediately blames Eve and Eve turns to blame the serpent. But just because it is common, does not mean it is okay or healthy.

In fact, blaming others for our own faults is always a losing proposition. It is annoying. It is dishonest – other people don’t cause your actions or attitudes, they just provide the opportunity. It causes people to not like you – nobody wants to be called the reason for your problems.

But the worst consequence of blame – and the reason we began the blame jar in our home – is that assigning blame is a very real obstacle to change. After all, if I can successfully shift the responsibility for my shortcomings to another person or external factor, I can eliminate the need (and the motivation) to change. I can live my life as a victim trapped in the cell that somebody else built for me. And I do not want my children to fall into that trap.

Blame is far too prevalent in our world. We blame our parents, our spouses, our employers, our teachers, our government, our upbringing, our environment, our financial condition, just to name a few. We blame others for our faults and our unhappiness. And every time we do, we lose. The decision to blame others for our shortcomings will always keep us up from making the changes in our lives that are so desperately needed. And in the long run, it keeps our dreams just out of reach.

So grab a roll of quarters. Toss one in a jar every time you hear yourself blaming someone else. And take control of your life today.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great lesson here. We parent in a similar fashion, very few gimmicks, but rather lots of love and attention, and praising the good. We only have one child, so we don’t see the blame thing as often, but I remember it being a huge problem when I was a kid.

    I see many adults doing this same thing. Always shifting the blame to avoid dealing with the consequences of their actions. Heck I bet we all do it from time to time, possibly without even realizing it. It would do us well to pay attention to this.

  2. says

    While it’s a great idea, and many belief systems preach always taking responsibility and never assigning blame (apparently regardless of who actually is at fault) there ARE cases where blame is justifiably assigned or transferred.

    As for the”blame jar,” do you (the parents) make a deposit each time you call attention to some misdeed one of the children does? I didn’t think so. So while your goal may be to teach them not to blame, what you may really be teaching them is that rules are not uniformly applied nor enforced. Of course, I suppose it’s never too early for kids to learn that such double standards are sadly a reality, even in the real world.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I do agree there are numerous times we are legitimately wronged by others and their actions affect us significantly. It is even helpful for everyone to recognize and identify these wrongs. But ultimately, our response to those actions/attitudes are birthed and executed within us. And it is only when we stop blaming others for our personal behaviors that we find the necessity and motivation to change ourselves.

      As for the blame jar, I’d draw a distinction between “blaming” and “pointing out wrong.” We certainly don’t put in quarters for calling attention to misdeeds when discipline is needed. But we do put in quarters if we are discovered blaming someone else for them – just like the kids.

      • says

        Just tryin’ to keep ya honest, Joshua ;)

        And, FWIW, coming from someone who has, on too many occasions, been not only unjustly blamed for others’ wrongs, but also suffered real consequences as a result of the misplaced blame. So that’s a bit of a touchy subject for me. Not that I’m anywhere near perfect, but I own my faults and don’t need to take responsibility for anyone else’s.

    • Kajsa says

      Interesting, Mike, that you naturally assumed that Joshua and his wife didn’t use the blame jar and chose to “blame” him, if you will, for not using it. I naturally assumed that they did use it. :)

      I like very much the following quote and read it to myself daily, changing the “you’s” to “I’s”:

      “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy. Pride leads to violence and evil. The truly good gaze upon everything with love and understanding.” The Dalai Lama

  3. Kate says

    I’m not familiar with the jar approach- what happens to the money in the jar, and what happens once your kids run out of money to deposit in the jar?

  4. says

    Blame is definitely one of the main reasons people get stuck in their lives. Blame leads to a victim mentality which thwarts problem-solving and creative thinking. In my blog post “Is Reality Wearing You Out?” (http://wp.me/p2fSH9-37), I said, “Reality is the result of our choices.” I talk about the concept of the original sin and blame in my book, What If Thinking. Blame has been an issues from the very beginning. Great suggestions for dealing with it! Thanks.

  5. says

    This is a great article, Joshua. The lesson is important and I think it’s wonderful that you’re teaching your children this at a young age. I do some work with seniors and most have enough life and work experience that they understand they are responsible for their own behaviours and actions, but some do not. Putting disease-related behaviours aside, it’s sad to see the elderly blaming others for what are clearly their unacceptable social behaviours. I sometimes think these people could have had happier, more fulfilling, more productive lives if they’d learned very early on that there is real joy and freedom in taking responsibility for one’s own actions. But it’s not too late. I still ask them how they could have handled their stressful situations differently. We learn together.

  6. says

    Blame has always been a major issue with me. In my younger years, I used to blame everything and everyone around me for everything that was wrong in my life. Now, I have realized that everything and I mean everything in my life is due to my thoughts and actions. Nothing in my life could have arrived there without me actually thinking about it and putting it there. Taking responsibility for one’s life is refreshing, as you realize you are able to change anything that you are not happy with. You finally have control over your own destiny.

  7. says

    I love the idea of a blame jar. Once our little boy gets older, we may have to do something similar. You really captured the essence of the problem, and it’s great that you’re instilling those values at an early age. I know that many of my family members are prone to blame their situations on everyone and everything besides themselves, and it’s a sad thing. They see themselves as victims and are just waiting for someone else to come solve their problems.

  8. patrea curry says

    nowhere in the bible does it say that fruit was an apple, it just says a fruit from the tree of good and evil. could b any fruit that grows on a tree. mangoes do too.

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