Blame Or Response-ability

Name it and Blame it. Doesn’t mean you solved it, nor owned it, nor changed it. Grace McGarvie


Blame has apparently replaced baseball as America’s pastime. The burning question of the day is, “Whose fault is it?”

I understand. From my permanent seat in a wheelchair I’ve wasted countless hours asking, “Why did this happen?” And I’ve only been able to discover one helpful answer: It really doesn’t matter.

Blaming wastes time and energy. It creates wonderful political theatre and provides an emotional outlet, but blaming accomplishes nothing productive. As long as I concentrate on “who’s to blame,” I remove my focus from “what am I going to do?”

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey encourages a new perspective on the word responsibility: “response-ability.” When we accept responsibility for our own choices, we enhance our ability to respond effectively. Blaming leads to a sense of personal weakness; response-ability expands our sphere of influence by focusing our efforts in areas we can control.

When I blame, I surrender to those who choose to accept responsibility, learn from their circumstances, and respond effectively. I’ve learned the hard way that blaming is an easy path that leads to decreased influence and a lower sense of personal power. That’s not the path I wish to travel, and I’m working on a heirachy for improving my personal response-ability.

Step one is knowledge. Effective response requires an accurate understanding of the facts.

Step two is skill. I must develop the ability to accomplish required tasks.

Too frequently, I think we stop here. But I’m convinced that skill and knowledge are useless, and perhaps even dangerous, without the third step: wisdom. Wisdom involves discerning the right response.

Initially, I thought this was the end of the process. But I concluded that these three steps accomplished nothing without a fourth critical step. The knowledge, skills, and wisdom to determine and accomplish the right thing are pointless unless I take a final step. I must possess the character to act.

My response-ability increases through:


  • knowledge: understanding my circumstances
  • skill: the ability to do what’s required
  • wisdom: discerning the right thing to do
  • character: doing it

What can you do to reduce blaming and increase your personal response-ability?

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