Who Is to Blame?
How often do we blame other people?
by Tim Scott (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To consider the blame culture in society today.
Preparation and materials
Have available a selection of images from recent news stories that have involved a culture of blame. Examples include the general election, the Grenfell Tower fire and various terrorist incidents. Please be sensitive to the situations as appropriate to the school in which this assembly is used.
Do you knowingly or unknowingly play the blame game? In society today, as we often see all over social media and on television, people always seem to be looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. Can you think of blame games that have been going on recently?
Show some of the images from recent news stories that have involved a culture of blame.
In our own lives, when something goes wrong or we feel unhappy, we can very quickly start looking for someone to blame. We have a strong desire to blame something or someone else, including God, for the unhappiness that we feel.
So, what is blame?
It is a set of attitudes that is based around a desire to assign responsibility for mistakes to others. In any organization, a blame culture can develop where there is fear and distrust. People will prefer to blame others rather than take responsibility for a mistake themselves, in case they are reprimanded or put down. The consequences of this are the stifling of innovation, risk-taking and creativity because people will not show personal initiative in case they are criticized.
Successful organizations recognize that they need to create a responsibility culture and not allow a blame culture to take root. In such organizations, the manager takes responsibility for a team’s failings or mistakes in all instances, except dishonesty or unethical behaviour. A good manager or leader – and some of you will be managers and leaders one day – will explain to people that if they make a mistake, the best thing they can do is to come forward openly. Then, the focus will be on helping to put things right. In a blame culture, nobody comes forward when a mistake is made, so mistakes tend to be hidden until they become crises.
TV programmes like The Apprentice imply that blaming people can be good entertainment. Each week, people watch to see which candidates Lord Sugar will say ‘You’re fired!’ to. The truth is that everyone is capable of making mistakes. The most successful entrepreneurs have often made many mistakes along the way, but they have learned from them. This means that the programme can be rather unrealistic.
Politicians are stereotyped as people who like to shift blame onto others. This has created mistrust of politicians, which is not good for democracy.
In short, playing the blame game can be destructive. If we’re not careful, we can end up playing it without realizing, for example, by thinking ‘I’m unhappy because X never pays me any attention.’ Other people do contribute to how things are, and our individual circumstances and situations will influence our lives, but we all have choices. People might have hurt you by being inconsiderate, mean or unloving, but what are you going to do about it? You can choose how you will react. You may not be able to change the way someone behaves, but you can have a happier life by learning to forgive and relating to them differently.
So, why do we play the blame game? Perhaps because it can be much easier to say that another person is responsible for the way we feel. Also, when something unpredictable or bad has happened – and life can be very unpredictable, and bad things can happen – it may be difficult for us to acknowledge that we must change something about ourselves, or the way we do things, if we are to find happiness again.
Here are some practical things that you can do to stop yourself falling into the trap of playing the blame game. However, don’t forget that taking responsibility is not something that can be taught: it is something that you have to do yourself.
- Admit when you have failed and learn from it. Be open, honest and committed to learning.
- Whenever you have the opportunity to take responsibility, do so, even in the smallest of choices.
- Stop being too hard on yourself and thinking that you are not good enough. Remember that you are loved by God and intrinsically valuable.
Time for reflection
Ultimately, playing the blame game will not satisfy us – it will make us unhappy, bitter and unforgiving.
Help us to say sorry!
Sorry for times when we haven’t taken responsibility for ourselves, our choices and the way our life is.
Help us to take responsibility for our own actions so that we no longer have to play the blame game.