This is one of the toughest things to let go of. Often we were blamed for everything that went wrong—in childhood, in a relationship, in any area of our lives. We may have grown up with the idea that someone must be blamed for everything—and too often it was us—so now one of our defense mechanisms may be to assess blame before anyone else can.
Note: I would agree that it is better to place blame on someone else’s shoulders—if that’s where it belongs—than to take it onto our own shoulders! I’m all for NOT accepting responsibility for problems that we did NOT cause! The thing is that blame ultimately hurts us.
Blame carries a heavy emotional toll. It requires anger. It requires reminding ourselves of grievances. It requires putting our energy and focus into what is or was wrong--rather than what could be right. And lurking at the back of it all is likely to be the fear that maybe we’re wrong and the other person isn’t to blame—we are. Maybe that’s even where we start.
What’s the alternative? Recognizing that something went wrong. Acknowledging any part we played in that AND any part others played in that. Doing so NOT as a way to place blame but rather as a way to say to ourselves: Hmmm, what went wrong and how and is there a way NOT to have things go wrong in future situations like this one?
In other words, it’s taking the emotions and the shame out of the equation. It's letting go of the anger that can otherwise eat us up inside.
What if no matter what went wrong or why, we are still human beings worth loving who deserve and can find a way to live fulfilling and happy lives? What if we are able to see that any harm done arises out of hurt and shame and self-doubt (if done on purpose) and ignorance (if done unknowingly)? What would that change? How much easier would it be to forgive and love—ourselves and others?
That does NOT mean we must let others hurt us again! It is possible to see that someone acted out of their own hurt and shame, forgive AND STILL WALK AWAY because it is not wise to be around that person. It is possible to look within ourselves and know that we were doing our best at the time and that NOW maybe we are capable of making different choices and taking different actions but we were not able to do so then.
You see, the more we forgive and love ourselves, the less likely we are to allow anyone to harm us and the less likely we are to harm others. If we can forgive and banish blame, we can let ourselves look more clearly at situations. We can learn from the past and create a future in which we are able to let ourselves be happy. We can know that no one else’s fears or hurts or shame—no matter what it causes that person to do!—in any way alters who we are. No matter what someone else does that impacts us in a negative way, it does not change the fact that we are children of God deserving of love and happiness.
I am not suggesting this change happens overnight. I recall at one point, some years ago, describing to my then counselor a situation in which someone had done something very hurtful to me. I was angry and ready to place blame where it clearly belonged—on this other person! (Which at least was progress since I wasn’t blaming myself this time.) He suggested that I just bless the person and let my anger go. I can’t tell you how close I came to cussing him out that day. Was he crazy???? Was I just supposed to forget what this person had done? Didn’t I have a right to be angry?????
I needed to go through the phase of being able to be angry. I needed to be able to recognize that I didn’t always have to take blame upon myself. It took time—several years in fact—before I was ready to move to the next step, letting go of blame and seeing the world through a filter of understanding and forgiveness.
The thing is, I couldn’t get to the point where I could forgive others and stop blaming them until I could forgive and stop blaming myself. Only then could I let go of the anger that was so corrosive to ME, to the person I wanted to be. Only then could I take the energy that had gone into anger and blame and use it to be happy instead.
Now I bless that counselor for saying what he did even when I wasn’t ready to believe it. Because it stayed with me until I was ready to grasp what he meant. That’s one reason I post ideas here even when I know they might not sit well with those who read my blog. Because I’m so grateful for all the times that people have offered me wisdom before I was ready to hear it even when they knew I might not like what they had to say.
As I said above, I couldn’t forgive and let go of blame toward others until I could forgive and stop blaming myself. I believe that this is our task in healing—to work on loving ourselves and believing in that divine spark which is within every one of us. Healing is bringing to the surface and rewriting those negative messages we have taken in about ourselves and replacing them with messages that empower us.
I’m going on much too long but I wanted to write about this because I know the damage that blame does—especially when we blame ourselves for things that were never our fault to begin with! And I lived with that kind of self-blame for far too many decades not knowing that it was both right and possible to let go of that self-blame.
So I hope for each of you that you are able to practice forgiving yourselves—even if you can only manage to do so for moments at a time. It is a gift you give yourself but also every person in your life who you care about. When we do not love and forgive ourselves, it is very hard to trust or love or forgive anyone else either.
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),