This past week I listened to Mark Manson's book "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck," and this book is GOOOOOODDDD. Read it. Listen to it. You won't be sorry, especially if you're struggling with something that you're not quite sure how to move through.
One of the concepts that created an "aha moment" for me was the distinction he made between Blame, Responsibility, and Fault. I've known for a long time that taking responsibility for our lives and our experiences is THE cornerstone of personal development. It's the lesson we have to learn over and over again. But it always feels a little insensitive to tell someone who has just had something incredibly traumatic happen to them or has a big painful mess in their life their dealing with that they need to "take responsibility". It just always seems a little asshole-y, and I don't want to be an asshole.
I'm almost always for 'telling it like it is' with compassion. I'm not afraid to make people uncomfortable by starting confrontational conversations that need to be had. I will never enable a friend's or client's old patterns with my words. However, telling someone who's dog just died that they need to take responsibility, just doesn't seem cool or feel good.
I'm dealing with something personally where I am in a lot of pain because of the actions of another person. (sorry to be vague, I just don't feel quite healed enough to share the details) For all intents and purposes, this action that hurt me was taken by someone else and totally blindsided me. I think any interaction where two parties are involved, there is always the "it takes two to tango" aspect, but I can honestly say that I feel pretty innocent.
So... taking responsibility for the hurt, pain, anger, sadness, disappointment, etc has been really difficult for me, because I feel like the victim. On a few levels, I am the victim, but I also know a victim-mentality never helped anyone. So this distinction between blame, fault, and responsibility really helped me work through that victim mentality and come to a more productive and healing outcome.
So here's the distinctions:
In a situation where someone or multiple someones is/are hurt, who is to blame is a valid question. It is totally fair to blame someone/something other than yourself if you've been hurt. The example I'll use is your boyfriend cheating on you. If your boyfriend cheats on you, the pain you feel from that breach of trust is very real and would not have been there had your boyfriend not cheated on you. This pain can absolutely be blamed on him. Ok, before you feel justified in your blaming and naming, read on.
The main thing we need to understand is that fault is not always linked to responsibility. In our society, we tend to think fault equals responsibility, and sometimes it absolutely does. If you hit someone with your car, it's probably your fault. However, if we stay with this example of the cheating boyfriend, it is not your fault your boyfriend cheated on you. You could have been having arguments, you could not have gotten along with his friends, whatever, none of that makes it your fault. He took the action and cheated. That could never be your fault. Again, keep reading though...
This is something you always, always have. There are no other options. We are the only ones that live in our bodies and are the only ones living our lives, so we always have responsibility for the way we react no matter who is at fault or who is to blame. Again with the cheating example, your boyfriend can be blamed for your pain, it is his fault that your relationship is blown up, however, it is still your responsibility to decide what to do with all this. You could see it as an impetus for change in your relationship, maybe it's a gift letting you know he is an asshole before you married him, or maybe it's an opportunity to look at yourself and how you act in your relationships.
Taking responsibility for EVERYTHING is the only option for an empowered life, but that most certainly doesn't mean you have to take on blame or fault yourself.
Want help getting clear on how to take responsibility for your life without feeling guilty or ashamed?
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