The blame trap

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

fingers pointing at one another against a black background

There is apparently a thief operating in my neighborhood who is stealing mail out of mailboxes. I was one of the victims of this thief last Saturday when several order shipments were stolen out of my mailbox before the postal carrier could pick them up.

When I first realized what had likely happened, I felt sick to my stomach with the financial loss (for me) and what it would mean for the customers who would be affected. My mind also went into overdrive trying to allocate blame.

Obviously, the thief is to blame for actually committing theft. But how much am I to blame for being willing to put them out there to begin with? How much am I to blame for not paying more attention to my mailbox after putting them in there? How much is the neighbor who was out working in his garage to blame for not noticing this happening? How much is the postal carrier to blame for arriving later than usual so that they were out there longer than they would normally be?

My mind kept spinning in circles trying to sort out who was to blame and how much blame should be allocated where, and all the while my fear over the financial loss and the potential anger of my customers kept growing and choking me even more.

Fortunately, I've spent quite a bit of time learning about how blame functions in my life over the last few years in dealing with places of brokenness. I've discovered (the hard way) that the time I spend trying to place blame is like a mass of quicksand. It only slows me down and keeps me stuck in the mess.

It's one of my mind's most favorite traps. There seems to be some part of me that believes that correctly figuring out how to assign the blame for a situation will either fix it or at least allow me to prevent it from happening again.

Instead, it just keeps me stuck rehearsing the scene over and over again and getting more upset all the while.

Having learned that, it's now easier for me to catch myself in that quicksand pit of blame and drain it quickly so I can move on.

In this case, as soon as I realized that I was heading into that blame trap, I consciously redirected my thinking. (This is something I often have to do more than once. Just because I know about the blame trap doesn't mean that my mind doesn't still keep trying to go there.)

Instead of assigning blame, I decided instead to first focus on how to best handle this with the customers who were affected to minimize as best as I could the impact on them. That meant rushing to finish up some pieces that were in progress so that I could offer them a choice of these potential replacements or a refund.

Moving from the blame trap into taking action to remedy the situation immediately reduced my anxiety level and gave me a path forward.

I also thought through my options for avoiding this situation in the future. Some days I hope to be able to catch the mail carrier just as they arrive, but I suspect most days that I'll now be making the drive the post office to be on the safe side. (Bummer!)

The theft is still infuriating. I am still unhappy with the financial loss it is costing me, the inconvenience and disappointment it creates for my customers, and the additional time and effort it will add to my plate in the future, but I don't feel stuck like I once would have.

By side-stepping the blame trap, I moved much more quickly into proactively choosing how to address the situation for the best possible outcomes available.

Fortunately, my customers (so far) have been very gracious. Some are happy with the replacements, and some preferred a refund, but they appreciated having the choice.

Letting go of the need to place blame set me free from feeling like the victim and put me back in control of my choices for moving forward.

Where might you benefit from letting go of the need to assign blame (to yourself or to others) and instead focusing on making choices for future action? You might be surprised at just how much freedom and control you take back when you step away from the blame trap!

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