Playing the blame game

You know the blame game. We do something wrong or fail at something and blame it on someone or something else.

by Irene Conlan — 

President Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” Many people held him to this promise, and he never flinched from the responsibility or the blame.

We all know people who are absolutely guiltless — or so they would lead you to believe. In my mind, as I write this, I hear Flip Wilson playing his wonderful character, Geraldine, saying, “The devil made me do it.” Everyone expected that line, and when it came, they all laughed. Geraldine was an icon of the blame game. She never took responsibility for what she did or said. In her case, it was funny. In ours, it is usually not so funny.

You know the blame game. We do something wrong or fail at something and blame it on someone or something else.

On a recent “Dancing with the Stars,” Donny Osmond messed up and said to the judges, “You know what happened? I saw Marie.” That’s a classic. Below are some of the more common blame game themes, accompanied by the truth in parentheses.

  • Sorry I’m late. Traffic was slow. (I didn’t give myself enough time.)
  • I don’t have my homework. I couldn’t find it in my backpack. (I played football and forgot to do it.)
  • I know the books are overdue. My wife put them away, and I couldn’t find them. (I put them down and forgot about them.)
  • I didn’t hear you call me. You must not have called loudly enough. (I had my iPod on and the volume turned up high.)
  • I missed the bus — it must have come early. (I got to the bus stop too late.)
  • I know I’m overweight, but my wife is a great cook, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. (I eat too much and never exercise.)
  • I know I drank too much last night, but Mike just kept filling my glass. (I drank too much last night.)
  • He hit me first. (I started it, but you don’t need to know that.)
  • I don’t know how I missed your calls. (I saw on my caller ID that it was you and didn’t answer my phone.)

These examples are pretty light and harmless. But when we use this defense to the point that we never take responsibility for our actions, it gets to be a problem. It is impossible to improve in an area if we deny responsibility for it.

Being overweight is a prime example. If I own the fact that I am fat because I overeat, eat the wrong types of foods, and/or don’t exercise enough (or at all), I can do something about that. If I create 2,000 excuses why it is not my fault, I will never find a solution and sentence myself to being overweight for the rest of my life.

If I smoke like a chimney and blame it on my co-workers for causing me so much workplace stress, I will not find a way to quit. If I own the fact that I make a choice each time I reach for a cigarette — that I choose to smoke — then I have something I can work on.

If I blame my outbursts of anger on my kids for being too noisy, too sloppy, too anything, I have to re-make my kids to solve my anger problem. If I admit to having a short fuse and being unable to contain my anger, then I can work on what is underlying my outbursts and find appropriate ways to release my anger.

If I own it, I can work on it. Owning a problem does not mean I am not good enough or that I am less than. Owning it neither makes me guilty nor wrong. It simply means I am able to take responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions, and no longer need to blame anyone else for my weak areas. Owning the problem is the first step to solving it.


Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past-life regression therapist in Scottsdale, Ariz. or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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