Tom is 12 and in the 7th grade. He got into some serious trouble recently. He says it was the other kid’s fault. Tom, himself, didn’t start it, the other kid was cheating. If the kid hadn’t been cheating then Tom wouldn’t have gotten so mad. If the other kid hadn’t said derogatory things about Tom’s mama, then Tom wouldn’t have lunged at him. So in essence, it’s all the other kid’s fault. Or is it? Is it the teacher’s fault? Is it the school’s fault? Society? Technology?
Sometimes stuff just happens. It’s our desire to bring order to the chaos by assigning blame. Who’s fault is it? If we can find someone to blame then we feel more in control. When we ask why are you looking to place blame? We come up with reasons like “to prevent it from happening again” or “so we can learn from it.” Hanging the blame isn’t going prevent if from happening again, and no one ever learned anything from finger pointing.
The problem isn’t finding the culprit. The problem is powerlessness. We are all, essentially, powerless over everything but ourselves. If we want to “prevent it from happening again,” or “learn from it” we need to look at ourselves. We can’t control what happens in the world, but we can control how we react to it.
When things go sideways in my corner of the universe I like to remind myself, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Unless of course they are my monkeys in which case I need to pull those little buggers up sharply and get them into their cage.
Let other people deal with their stuff, and I’ll deal with mine.
Tom tried to force the cheating kid to quit cheating. The cheating kid tried to control Tom by calling his mama names. What happened? Two kids end up sitting in the principals office.
Don’t be like Tom.. or his cheating classmate.
Just for today
When I find myself looking for someone to blame, I will pause. I will ask God to show me what I can change and what I must accept. And if I need to change something in myself then I will bravely look at what needs to be changed and try, however haltingly to change.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr