A mother heard the family cat yowl in pain. She knew where to look – she looked for her son, Mike. "Stop pulling the cat's tail, Michael!" she chided.
"I'm not pulling his tail," the boy retorted. "I'm just standing on it. He's doing the pulling."
He, of course, is no different than any of us. Often, our first impulse is to blame someone or something else for problems. It's the cat's fault. Or the school's fault. Or my parents' fault.
I once heard a story of a 40-year-old woman who was jogging in a U. S. state park when she was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. Her family immediately filed suit against the state because of its "failure to manage the mountain lion population" and because it didn't "react to reports of cougar activity in the area by posting warning signs."
But an interesting thing happened. Her distraught husband felt it was wrong to blame the state or anyone else for his wife's death, even though he stood to possibly win a small fortune. Against her family's wishes, he dropped the law suit. "Barbara and I have always taken responsibility for our own actions," he explained. "Barbara chose to run in the wild and, on a very long shot, she did not come back. This is not the fault of the state, and people should take responsibility for themselves."
I would like to meet that man. He no doubt believes that the Blame Game" is a no-win in the long run. He seems like a person who would rather spend time fixing what's broken than fixing the blame for it on someone else.
This isn't about law suits – it's more about whether we are essentially victims of life or whether we are powerful and responsible people. An important step in gaining mastery over your life is to resist the urge to make something or someone else responsible. Like novelist J. K. Rowling said to graduating Harvard students, "There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you." Certainly background and circumstances have influenced who we are, but who is responsible for the person we become?
An important decision I made was to resist playing the Blame Game. The day I realized that I am in charge of how I will approach problems in my life, that things will turn out better or worse because of me and nobody else, that was the day I knew I would be a happier and healthier person. And that was the day I knew I could truly build a life that matters.