Who Do We Blame?
Living in a blame culture
by Tim Scott (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To consider today’s blame culture and reflect that always looking to blame others can do more harm than good.
Preparation and materials
- Have available a selection of images from recent news stories where the blame game has been played. For example, political parties that lost in elections, the refugee crisis and football teams losing matches that they were expected to win.
- Do you knowingly or unknowingly play the blame game? In today’s society, we often see in the newspapers, on TV or on the Internet people who are looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. Can you think of blame games that have been going on recently?
Show the students some of the images from recent news stories.
- In our own lives, when something goes wrong and we feel unhappy, we can quickly start looking for someone to blame. We have a strong desire to blame someone else, including God, for the fact that we feel unhappy.
- So, what is ‘blame’? It is a set of attitudes that are based around an unwillingness to accept responsibility for mistakes. 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, for fear of being reprimanded or put down. The consequence of this is to stifle innovation, risk-taking and creativity because people will not show initiative in case they are criticized.
- Successful organizations recognize that they need to create a responsibility culture rather than allowing 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, and the focus will be on helping to put things right. In a blame culture, nobody would come forward when a mistake was made, so mistakes would be hidden until they became crises.
- TV programmes like The Apprentice imply that blaming people can be good entertainment. Each week, people watch to see which of the candidates Lord Sugar will fire. The truth is that everyone can make mistakes. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs have often made many mistakes along the way themselves, but they have learned from them. This can make the programme seem rather unrealistic.
- The stereotype of a politician is someone who likes to shift blame onto others. This has caused the public to distrust politicians, which is not good for democracy.
- In short, playing the blame game can be destructive. We can easily end up playing it without realizing, for example, by thinking, ‘I’m unhappy because X never pays me any attention.’ We need to remember that, although other people contribute to how things are, and our individual circumstances and situations will influence our lives, everyone has choices. People might have hurt us by being inconsiderate, mean or unloving, but we can make a choice as to how we deal with the situation. We can choose how we will react. We may not be able to change the way someone behaves, but we can have a happier life by learning to forgive and relating to them differently.
- 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, 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 we can do to stop ourselves falling into the trap of playing the blame game.
- Admit when we have failed and learn from it. We should be open, honest and committed to learning.
- Whenever we can, take responsibility, even in the smallest of choices.
- Stop being too hard on ourselves, assuming that we are not good enough. We should remember that we are loved by God and intrinsically valuable.
Time for reflection
Playing the blame game will ultimately not satisfy us; it will make us unhappy, bitter and unforgiving.
We are sorry for times when we have not taken responsibility for ourselves and our choices.
Help us to take responsibility for our own actions so that we no longer have to play the blame game.
Help us to admit when we get things wrong.
Help us to say ‘sorry’ when we need to.
Help us to take responsibility and be thankful for all we have.
‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 27, 2008 edition)