Some years ago I heard a story of a middle aged woman who was out for a jog in a national park when she was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. Her shocked and distraught family immediately began legal proceedings against the government for compensation, stating its “failure to manage the mountain lion population” and because it didn’t “react to reports of mountain lion activity in the area by posting warning signs” had led to her death.
But then an interesting thing happened. Her grieving husband felt it was wrong to blame the state or anyone else for his wife’s death, even though he stood to possibly gain a small fortune if the legal action succeeded. Against legal advice, and setting aside the insistence of her family, he dropped the legal action.
“Margaret and I talked often about the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions,” he explained. “Margaret often chose to run in the wilderness because she loved it out there, and, against very long odds, this time she did not come back. It’s not the fault of the government. People should take responsibility for themselves.”
I would like to think that I too would respond as Margaret’s husband did. He obviously believes that playing the “Blame Game” is a no-win approach. He seems like someone who would prefer to spend time fixing a problem than fixing the blame for it on someone else.
This isn’t about a tragic accident or the appropriateness of legal action – it’s about deciding whether we are essentially victims of life or whether we are powerful and responsible people.
An important step in gaining a sense of control over your own life is to resist the urge to make something or someone else responsible for it. J. K. Rowling (Author of the Harry Potter series of books) made this point when she spoke to graduating students at Harvard – “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 strongly influence who we are, but who is responsible for the person we become?
I believe we have an important choice to make if we are to be the best we can be, and build a life that truly makes a difference. That choice is to resist playing the Blame Game.
The day I realised that how I approach problems in my life is a choice I can make – that things will turn out better or worse because of me, and nobody else – that was the day I knew I could be a happier and healthier person by choice, not chance.