A couple of years ago, a good friend showed me a video that changed me. The video is a three minute and 30 second-long cartoon with a voiceover by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. It is about blaming.
I’m not going to spoil the whole video for you, but there is comedy, anger, drama, disappointment, human frailty, and redemption in a very small package. But there is a surprise ending with a moral at the end that I will share with you: we blame too much, and it doesn’t do us any good.
Blame is attractive because it gives us a sense of control, a sense that simply by blaming someone or something, we can somehow improve the situation. Have you ever blamed yourself, simply because it felt better than not blaming anyone at all? I know I have. I think we all have.
I think many of us are experts in blaming. Whenever something bad happens, it is a competition to find exactly who we think is at fault and immediately call them out. It might be the latest mass shooting, the latest political scandal, or some other current event.
In the distant past, this blaming was sometimes accompanied with torches and pitchforks.
In 2019, it means going to the Twitterverse, blogosphere or some other social media with anger and bluster. It’s often accompanied by some clickbait headline like “Watch Person A DESTROY Person B about TOPIC.” For me, this brings to mind the famous Shakespeare quote from Macbeth, “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
According to Brown, the research has determined that blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain from the body. Importantly, blame does not increase accountability.
In fact, blame has an inverse relationship with accountability. That means the more we blame, the less we achieve the accountability that truly benefits ourselves, our families, and our community.
Brown continues to explain that accountability is a vulnerable process, involving honest communication about the pain something has caused and a discussion of how best to change behavior in the future to avoid that pain. If we spend all of our energy blaming, we will not have any energy left to engage in the difficult process of holding people accountable.
Blame is harmful. It’s corrosive in personal relationships, and it fills space that could be used for other, more productive activities like watching a short video. Just Google: “Brene Brown blame,” and it will pop right up. If you like it, there’s a lot more Brené Brown to watch: a Netflix special on your TV, a TED talk you can find online, and more.
We only get a short time to fret upon this stage called life. Let’s use our time wisely.
Guest columnist Joe Walsh is the Mille Lacs County Attorney.