“Blame confers an awesome power. And it’s simplifying, not only to onlookers and victims but to culprits most of all. It imposes order on slag."
- Lionel Shriver, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’
Blame is not fault. Fault is cause and effect; a factual progression bounded by action and outcome, and usually beyond the influence of emotion. Fault is what is recorded in log-books and court transcripts; a logical diary of events and their repercussions. Blame, on the other hand, is the emotion we ascribe to these events for purposes beyond the illustration of fault – it’s a personalisation, an emotive response, usually with a basis in anger, fear or loss. Often we blame because we want recognition of the fact that someone or something that has changed in a way that we do not like. As such, blame can occasionally sit beside fault, but blame in itself is purely a personal, emotional creation.
In itself blame is not a call to action, but an offloading of emotion – the feeling that something is desperately wrong. Blame is an announcement that something is important to you and that it has changed in a way that has affected you. I blame because I need to pour out the feeling that something is wrong, bad, or merely different, and I wish it weren’t so. I blame to show that it means something to me, that I am in some way connected, even before I act, or because I believe I can’t. We purge ourselves of these feelings by pushing them onto another person, and with this is carried an often unrealistic sense of responsibility and expectation of action.
Blame is the signal for, or predecessor of, actionable emotion. It is alive with the promise of something else – like recognition of fault, the opportunity to create or restore order, to punish or to change. The best version of blame is a living blame which is interactive and evolving. It is a blame which can enlighten you or challenge you. Blame can be a motivator for productivity. However, because we view blame as a singular action of and within itself, with no need for further examination or follow-up, blame is often empty, and this is most destructive. An empty blame grows, drawing in irrational anger and unreasonable expectation.
Do you agree that blame does not always equal fault? How do you use blame in your own life?
I prefer to adopt a mindset of "acceptance". From our own very limited perspective we can't always see the bigger picture. We were just talking yesterday about how things that often seem negative in the beginning, can, in hindsight, turn out to be the best thing that could have ever happened. Before blaming, try adopting an open mind for the possibilities that may yet be lying ahead for you.