Three Principles Living

Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD

Blame or Accountability?

Blame or Accountability?

In the aftermath of negative events, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to confuse blame with accountability. I’ve noticed it frequently in the “Keeping them Honest” segments of CNN’s AC360, but I’ve come across it often in other settings, too. Terrible thing happens. Officials are interviewed. First question: “Who do you blame for this?” And then the feeding frenzy starts as people of different persuasions blame the past, blame government, blame X-corporation, blame other groups with different beliefs, blame the press … The list of those who can be blamed is endless.

The problem is that “blame” is a dead-end street. It’s a way for people under pressure to feel vindicated for things that have gone wrong. And blame is more and more used as a substitute for accountability. Now that I’ve “blamed” X, it’s X’s problem. Let X figure it out. And once X is blamed, X gets defensive and insecure and is psychologically inclined to do whatever X can to shift the blame to Y. And on and on. We end up in a downward spiral of negativity, defensiveness and bad feelings, with no possibility of a reach for common ground and innovation to address challenges.

When all of those who need to work together to be accountable are operating in that milieu of bad feelings and bad will, solutions are impossible. We’re back to the schoolyard fights when the teacher comes into the middle of the fray and says, “All right, who started this?” He did. No, she did. No, I did not. They did. It’s not my fault! Don’t blame me, my father told me to fight back. …

In the world defined by an understanding of the Three Principles and how State of Mind works, the operative question is not “Who do you blame for this?” or “Who started it?” The operative question is “How are we going to come together now to solve this?” The ideal is to sidestep the negative spiral, move towards understanding and good will, and unleash everyone’s creativity and wisdom to address solutions — to bring accountability into the present moment.

I’ve been playing around with what if scenarios for some of the current “blame game” problems we face locally and nationally. What occurs to you?

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