Pinning the Blame
We are responsible
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of accepting responsibility for mistakes.
Preparation and materials
- Prepare a game of pin the tail on the donkey.
- Have available the song ‘Anti-hero’ by Taylor Swift and the means to play an excerpt from it during the assembly. It is 3.23 minutes long and is available at: https://youtu.be/XqN2qFvY64U
- We’re going to play a game. Please could I have a volunteer?
Choose a student volunteer.
- Show the game of pin the tail on the donkey.
Here, we have a donkey that is missing its tail. We’re going to blindfold our volunteer and ask them to pin the donkey’s tail in the correct place.
Blindfold the student, spin them round and let them try to pin the tail in the correct place. You may wish to involve other volunteers too.
- It’s not so easy to pin the tail, is it? Especially when we can’t see clearly. Yet we’re often quick to pin blame on other people.
Pinning the blame: we see it everywhere. We pin the blame elsewhere when we want to escape a punishment. We pin the blame elsewhere to avoid embarrassment. We pin the blame elsewhere when we’re in a bad mood. We pin the blame elsewhere when we’re retaliating for something. We’re happy to pin the blame, as long as it isn’t on us.
Time for reflection
But what if the blame deserves to be pinned on us? What if we are the problem?
Taylor Swift has produced some award-winning music over the years. Recently, her lyrics have shifted to looking at herself with sometimes brutal honesty. In ‘Anti-hero’, she deals directly with where the blame should be pinned. Let’s listen to the first part of the song.
Play the song ‘Anti-hero’ by Taylor Swift up to 1.09 minutes.
‘It’s me. Hi! I’m the problem, it’s me.’ What an admission! How many of us would be honest enough to admit that, never mind release it to the world?
Taylor Swift is admitting that sometimes, she’s the one who should take the blame, that she’s not always easy to be with, that she doesn’t easily admit her mistakes, that she has a short fuse. I’m not sure I could turn to my family, colleagues and all of you, and admit that I might be the problem, the one who should take the blame.
‘I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror.’ She is confessing that she’ll look anywhere other than at herself and her failings. Brutally honest!
What Taylor Swift is saying here ties in with what the Bible teaches about human nature. Christians believe that each of us has a fatal flaw in our personality that leads us to act, think and speak in ways that damage ourselves and others. However, we’re very unwilling to admit it. The word used in the Bible for this failing is sin.
‘It’s me. Hi! I’m the problem, it’s me.’
Christians believe that faith in Jesus can help us to cope with this flaw and live a life that benefits those around us. If we are the problem, there is a solution to the problem.
However, if we’re all like this - a community of problems rattling around with each other - how do we live together?
Taylor Swift raises this: ‘It must be exhausting, always rooting for the anti-hero.’ This offers a seed of hope. It’s as if she’s saying to her friends, ‘I know you’re trying to be patient with me, to give me a second chance, to forgive me when I hurt you. I really appreciate it. I realize that it must be hard some of the time.’
Maybe that’s another lesson for us to learn from this song. First, we take responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions. Second, we develop patience with one another, accepting the flaw in each other. Let’s enjoy the song again.
‘Anti-hero’ by Taylor Swift, available at: https://youtu.be/XqN2qFvY64U (3.23 minutes long)
- Invite the students to close their eyes during a one-minute silence.
To start, invite them to remember three occasions when they tried to pin the blame on someone else. After 30 seconds, invite them to think of three people they should be more patient with.