How many times have we heard it – someone in the national spotlight lies to cover up a case of poor judgment on their part. They may feign ignorance. They may downplay it. They may shut up and shut down. But more often than not, they shift blame to someone else.
Whenever we are faced with the prospect of our imperfections being exposed, for many of us, our first response is also to avoid, deflect or shift responsibility.
We will acknowledge we aren’t perfect, but then fight tooth and nail to avoid showing it.
- It may look like:
- Making an excuse or joke to justify a mistake you’ve made
- Blaming a co-worker or child for something you did
- Responding to your spouse’s feedback with defensiveness and a counter-attack.
Insecurity is the root cause of blame
Freud referred to these responses as “Ego Defense Mechanisms”. They are designed to avoid or soften the blow to our ego because – news flash – we’re all insecure.
These insecurities begin early and are learned. Do your kids, when faced with being held accountable for a mistake, own it or turn to blame someone else? Yes, they are practicing what they’ve learned from society. But let’s be honest – they learn most from us! Our kids are usually a perfect and often uncomfortable reflection of own insecurities and habits.
The Blame Game spells big trouble for a relationship
When we assign blame, it is never about determining responsibility. It’s about avoiding it. Blame is keeping score in a game that no one ever wins.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of blame. It’s hurts. It’s invalidating. It creates resentment that builds over time and erodes the relationship’s foundation.
I can tell you from my experience, a relationship built on blame is a relationship at risk.
Holding ourselves, flaws and all, is hard
To move beyond blame, we first must admit something – we are all broken. Every single one of us. The more we try to hide it, the more buried in shame we become. You see, shame and blame go hand in hand and neither is a good bedfellow.
Admitting you are broken is not a death sentence. Instead, it is a pardon from holding yourself to the impossible standard of perfection. It is having empathy for your full self, flaws and all.
Empathy for yourself breeds empathy for others
When you develop empathy for yourself, you then have the capacity to offer empathy to others. And empathy for others is a critical component to move from an environment of blame to one of accountability.
When one of you shifts the focus from blame – from determining who is right and who is wrong – to determining who will be the first one accountable, your relationship can flourish.
Imagine yourself standing in the midst of your partner’s pain and rather than becoming defensive, you listen and connect to the pain.
Or, being able to hear you made a mistake and rather than focusing inward on your own shame and discomfort, you shift your focus outward, towards your spouse’s injury.
Accountability stops the Blame Game cycle in its tracks.
Making this shift from blame to accountability in your relationship is not easy and most people find it helpful to have an experienced person coaching them through the process. If this sounds like you, give us a call or schedule an appointment online