Humans as a species have a tendency to dole out blame for anything and everything that goes wrong in their lives. Whether it’s a sarcastic “Thanks, Obama!” or an attack on a political group for some deficient aspect of society, blaming other people for our problems is something we humans excel at.
Blaming other people doesn’t fix things, though. It fosters resentment and results in nasty flame wars that don’t change people’s minds. This doesn’t just apply to political blame. Blaming a fellow student for causing your group to fail in its final project doesn’t give you a passing grade, and blaming an ex for your emotional instability doesn’t help you become more stable.
Blaming yourself for things that have gone wrong isn’t profitable, either. We often think that blaming ourselves is a noble thing to do and that we become stronger by taking responsibility for the emotional, mental, and physical disasters that we have to deal with. However, piling all that blame on yourself is a one-way ticket to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Psychologically, it just isn’t healthy.
The reality of blame is that it’s a scapegoat. It’s a way to justify what we have done or what we feel. We think that going through pain or trouble requires someone to be responsible for it. There are two things to be said about that:
- Pain and trouble are rarely one-sided, and sometimes circumstances are more to blame than people.
- No matter who or what is responsible for what is going on, that doesn’t change its reality.
How, then, are we to cope with pain and problems if laying blame isn’t the answer?
Forgiveness, understanding, and purposeful living that incorporates those two traits.
Imagine a couple sitting in the boyfriend’s car. She’s 19 and a virgin while he’s 21 and has had sex. He’s her first boyfriend, and she’s his fourth girlfriend. They’ve planned their lives together: when they will get married, where they will go after undergrad, how long they want to wait before they have kids. She looks over at him, and he’s tense. He looks like he might cry. He takes her hand, and she wants to ask him if he’s trying to break up with her. But she doesn’t.
He asks if she had a good time with his godfather that evening. She says yes and asks if he’s angry. He shakes his head and replies, “No. Not at you, anyway.” She asks, “Can I help you be less afraid?”
He shakes his head again and eventually tells her, “I feel like I’ve been making your life difficult these past couple weeks.” She asks, “Our life or mine?” “Yours,” he confirms. She admits that things have been rough and she’s felt distanced from him but she keeps hoping that with enough patience things will get better.
He looks over at her and says, “I don’t think so.” She asks why not. He says what she’s been dreading but isn’t surprised by: “I think we should break up.”
This is my story. I cried. I was angry. I wanted to blame my roommate, who had been spending copious amounts of time with my ex-boyfriend, but I knew they had no romantic interest in each other. I wanted to blame my ex-boyfriend, but I saw how much pain he was in and how he had planned the break-up to cause me as little pain as possible. Most of all, I wanted to blame myself. What had I done wrong? What could I have done differently? Why did he stop loving me? Over the past week, I’ve learned several things:
- I may never understand why my ex stopped having romantic interest in me; that’s okay.
- He is in pain, and he receives little sympathy because he initiated the break-up. He feels guilt over how much the break-up hurt me, and he can’t forget it because he sees me at least three times a week.
- While we were dating, I was going through minor emotional and psychological trauma. I was, and am, trying to grow up and break free from my parents, who love me dearly but have controlling tendencies. This process probably frightened my ex, who never had a girlfriend so much younger than him and so inexperienced with independence.
- He did the right thing for both of us. I need to become my own person before I worry about cultivating a romantic relationship, and he is having to make enough big life decisions without having to worry about someone else’s trauma on top of it all.
- He gave my future back to me. I was ready to give up everything for him, and he wanted to make sure that I am the one choosing how to live my life.
I know that not all break-ups are like this. I know that not all pain is like this and not all problems are like this. But when you stop trying to dish out blame, you can see the benefits in what you are going through, even if there is a lot of pain or disagreement in it. Just because you are hurting or have a problem doesn’t mean you have to blame someone. Pain doesn’t necessitate anger, and anger only causes damage.
It is okay to feel pain. I still do, and I’m sure I will for a while. I miss my ex-boyfriend, and part of me wishes that we had been able to work things out and stay together. But we didn’t, and I can’t change that. What I can do is learn from my pain, forgive him for hurting me, and work on living my life without him. Because it’s still a good life, and there’s a lot I can do with it.
I am a student in college working toward my Bachelor’s Degree in English Writing. My primary interest is creative writing, and I have wanted to create other worlds since I read The Chronicles of Narnia in 3rd grade. I currently have more worlds than I know what to do with, all waiting to be written (and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten again). If someone finds comfort and understanding in the struggles I share, then my purpose as a writer will have been fulfilled. I like mermaids and dark chocolate, and I believe in the truth of fairy tales.
If you would like to contact me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.