Years ago when I started training in martial arts, I adopted a simple philosophy about injuries. If during a match, either of us got hurt, it was my fault. In life most of us spend far too much time trying to assign blame to others when bad things happen. This is not only a waste of time and energy, it is also usually a lie.
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.
For martial arts, my reasoning goes like this: if I got hurt it was my fault for not being fast enough or good enough to prevent it, and if the person I was working out with got hurt it was my fault because I inflicted the injury. I'm not talking about minor bruises, that's just part of the sport; however, our goal was not to injure our opponents, only to develop and/or demonstrate superior abilities, so if my opponent was injured by something I did like a punch or a kick, even if a mistake on their part created the situation, it was still a failure of my skills as I did not react quickly enough to prevent it.
In our personal lives, there are many things which are at least partly our fault, but we like to pretend that if someone else or even random chance played any role, then we aren't really to blame. This viewpoint is roughly equivalent to leaving a loaded gun lying around and claiming it wasn't our fault if a child picks it up and accidentally kills someone with it. No matter how you partition the blame, the fact remains that if we hadn't left a loaded gun out, the person would not be dead. When we deny responsibility, how can we learn from the mistake? After all, if it wasn't our fault, then we have no reason to change our behavior, so we continue to make similar if not the same mistakes.
The examples below were chosen specifically because they represent not only some of the biggest mistakes people make in life, but also ones people are least likely to accept as being their fault. These mistakes are made worse because society likes to tell us it isn't really our fault. It is this kind of mistake which is hardest to face, accept responsibility for, and learn from:
- Defaulting on a loan and losing your house - if you can't afford to pay cash, you should always get the smallest, cheapest house you can find, borrow the least amount of money possible, make sure you fully understand the terms of the loan before borrowing, and pay it off as quickly as possible. If you don't understand the terms, or don't have any contingency plans in the event you lose your job, you are not ready to buy. This is not a popular viewpoint; however, it was a far more common approach to buying houses many decades ago.
- Spousal abuse - leave the abuser immediately when it starts, choose a different kind of person to be with in the future or choose to be alone. Learn to not engage in behaviors which provoke abuse. Abuse victims have a tremendous ability to pick out those who are most likely to abuse them, and are often drawn to that type of person. In some cases they also engage in behavior designed to provoke attacks. Now before some of you decide to become verbally abusive in the comment form for my daring to suggest these women are in any way at fault:
- Note that I started this with the term "spousal abuse", slightly more than 50% of all abuse victims in the USA are in fact men, it is simply less likely to be reported because due to differences in physical size and strength, women are far more likely to be seriously injured than men. Men who are abused are also far more likely to be arrested as the abuser after being attacked (because it is assumed they must be at fault) and receive derision or disbelief rather than sympathy, so they are less likely to seek help.
- I am well aware that there are cultural environments in the world in which a woman who is abused has little choice or recourse, but that is not the case in most places where this article is likely to be read.
- If you believe there is nothing the victim could do which would justify a violent response, you are quite simply out of your mind. In some cases the "victim" actually initiates the physical violence but loses the fight; in others they engage in more subtle attacks on a regular basis until the abuser blows up. If you kicked a dog as you walked past each day on your way to work and the dog one day took off your leg, why would you be surprised by the reaction? When a jury is given the full facts do you think they would take your side or the dog's?
- You have missed the point: regardless of any one else's fault, the victim has a choice, and as such could have at the very least prevented all attacks after the first one. If they would accept this level of responsibility, they can stop the abuse at any time.
- Cheating partner - at the very least there was a failure on your part to recognize what kind of person your partner is, though in many cases the person who is cheated on contributes to the problem. Were you emotionally distant? How about unconcerned about their sexual needs? As others have pointed out, sexual release on a regular basis is a physiological requirement of male biology (I am not certain about female requirements). Would you ask your partner to stop eating for the next few weeks because you weren't hungry? In many cases the "cheaters" are just looking for someone they can talk to and enjoy simple pleasures with in an environment devoid of harsh judgments and ulterior motives.
- Mugging - were you paying any attention to what was going on around you? Were you aware of the type of neighborhood you were in, and if so, could you reasonably have avoided the neighborhood or situation? If you weren't aware of the type of neighborhood, did you make any attempt to assess it as you entered?
We often get what we deserve when we refuse to take responsibility for our mistakes, particularly when we don't try to correct them as soon as possible. If we assume from the start that we were at least partially responsible in some way, it eliminates all the rubbish about whose fault something is, so now you can actually do something about preventing future problems. Only when we can admit to our responsibility for what happens can we actually learn from it, grow, and (hopefully) prevent future problems which are similar to the ones in our past.
Consider what kind of world it might be if we all accepted more than our share of the responsibility rather than less. We will all learn more, make fewer mistakes and be on the alert to prevent problems before they occur. One result would be that the world becomes a much better place. Of course not everyone is going to do this; however, if we at least choose to take full responsibility for our mistakes and perhaps a little extra, the world still becomes a better place.
If you found this article a little harsh or otherwise difficult to accept, I apologize; after all, I wrote it, so it must be my fault.