Responsibility vs. Blame

Responsibility vs. Blame

Hello Rebel, and welcome back to my life.

As I mentioned in previous videos, I had many interesting conversations with friends at Nerdcon: Stories.

Those conversations have continued since, and one I want to share with you today concerns the concept of responsibility.

Responsibility is an important concept to me that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and wrestling with.

I think my view on responsibility is part of the reason I’m as happy as I am—and I’m a pretty happy guy, even when things aren’t super the greatest in my life.

The first and most important part of my belief is that responsibility and blame are two completely different things, and it’s unhealthy to conflate them.

Responsibility is an entirely forward-thinking, future-thinking concept. It is saying what you will do.

Blame is an entirely backward-thinking, past-focused concept. It is saying someone was WRONG for having done something.

Guilt is another thing entirely. Guilt is sometimes just another word for blame, but the concept can be useful—like, we need a legal definition of guilt for instances where punishment or reparations are necessary.

Not that reparations are likely to ever happen in this country, but that’s a rant for another time.

But the key to this is that accepting responsibility for a situation doesn’t mean accepting the blame for it. You can be responsible for the future without blaming yourself for the past.

This can be tricky. It can sound weird. Because when someone is asked to take responsibility, they usually see this as accepting blame.

This is one reason white people have trouble taking responsibility for slavery and racism, and why men have trouble taking responsibility for sexism and misogyny.

They think they’re being blamed for all the terrible things that have been done and are being done to women and/or people of color.

The truth is, no one’s saying I’m to blame for slavery. But I can take responsibility for eradicating the long-term effects of slavery, which are still very much around today, and still strongly affect the lives of, like, living Americans, right now.

Again—blame looks backward, responsibility looks forward.

As for blame—it’s completely useless. I do not know of a situation where blame is of any use to anyone whatsoever.

It does no good to blame yourself for something that happened to you—and, actually, it does no good to blame yourself for something YOU did.

It DOES benefit you and others to take responsibility for improving things in the future and trying your best to make sure bad things don’t continue to happen, especially if you’re the one doing something wrong.

But this is not the same as blaming yourself for what occurred, especially if something was done TO you.

(And once again, guilt is a completely different concept from both these things, and it’s just a necessary thing for any societal justice system to exist).

I personally find this idea of responsibility empowering, because it means I can always take the driver’s seat when it comes to my life and how I conduct myself with others.

If I do something harmful, I can take responsibility to ensure I don’t do it again in the future and repair the damage I’ve done—that’s very important.

And if someone does something harmful to me, I can take responsibility to avoid that situation happening again in the future, and maybe avoid the harmful person entirely.

And I can do this without assuming some self-degrading attitude that “I deserved it” or “It was my fault.” Because again—blame is not responsibility.

Another interesting facet of this idea of responsibility is that two people can take total responsibility for the same thing.

This is philosophy, not math, right? So I can take 100% responsibility for a situation, and someone else can ALSO take 100% responsibility for the situation. It’s not a zero-sum game.

I had a friend say to me recently that they didn’t like it when I try to take responsibility for a situation because they felt it robbed them of their own agency.

And my answer was that they were free to also take responsibility, and there was no reason that had to be a conflict.

I was just definitely going to do my part to ensure that the situation improved going forward into the future.

One of my favorite things about this is it’s one of those philosophies that doesn’t require anyone else’s participation to be beneficial.

Like science, it kind of works whether or not anyone else believes in it. And I think in a diverse world with diverse points of view, that’s a number one requirement for any philosophy of life.

That’s all I have for you today, Rebel. I hope you found it interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to drop a comment below.

I appreciate you watching, and I will see you Friday, when I think we’re going to talk about narcissism. That oughta be fun. Okay. Byyye!

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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