We are all wronged at one point in our life. Someone does something to you, justified or not, and it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot.
Sometimes YOU’RE the one causing the pain. You do something that seems like a good idea at the time, or you do something in spite, or in a moment of weakness. You do it because you’re angry, or you do it because you need to lash out at someone, anyone.
It happens, is my point. Depending on the level of the offense, the parties may make up with each other, or it might mean the end of a relationship. Either way, most people try to move on.
But not always.
Sometimes you do something bad. Or you’re not the best person you could be. But the level of retaliation is off the charts. It’s far above and beyond what could reasonably be expected for your original offense.
Perhaps you drink too much and you insult a friend at a party. So the friend spreads lies about you through your personal and professional circles until no one wants to associate with you.
Perhaps you’re married and you don’t do enough to support the family income. So your partner retaliates by sleeping with someone else.
Perhaps you’re a woman on the Internet and you write a scathing article about gaming culture. So online gamers track down your IP address and publish your personal information online, including your parents’ cell phone numbers, and orchestrate a campaign of daily harassment against you.
Perhaps you throw a bottle at a police officer during a protest. So that police officer draws his automatic rifle and shoots you dead in the street.
In every case, you have done something to insult, to harm, or to hamper someone else. You have done something to the other person. But has your action invited the level of retaliation you’ve received? Of course not.
Then why do you blame yourself for it?
We all do things during our lives we wish we could take back. But sometimes the response is something that can’t be taken back. And in those cases, we must recognize that we are not to blame for the response.
We can claim some responsibility for them, in a cause-and-effect type of manner. But as I have stressed often before, responsibility is not blame.
Responsibility is the recognition that you have performed some action that instigated some other action. More importantly, responsibility is the recognition that you can take some future action, however slight, for doing something in the future.
Blame is a negative and, frankly, unhelpful tendency to point a finger—to accuse someone as the most contributive cause to a situation, and therefore the problem that is in need of correcting.
Too often, loudmouthed pundits rant at victims to “take responsibility” for their situation, when they really mean accept your blame.
“You wouldn’t have been raped if you hadn’t left the house that night.” Certainly, that could be true, and in that sense responsibility can be taken. But blame the goddamn rapist. Correct the party who has made it a danger to leave the house at night, not the party who braved a dangerous world regardless.
“He wouldn’t have been shot if he hadn’t been carrying that toy gun.” Maybe. But the goddamn cop shouldn’t have shot him, and certainly shouldn’t have sped the car to a halt two feet away from him. Blame the cop. One party has acted foolishly and needlessly taken a life. They have not protected anyone.
We can think of this as super-retaliation. Party A commits some offense, real or imagined, against Party B. Party B then retaliates with unbelievable force.
Afterward, observers are likely to spread their hands at Party B and say, “What the FUCK, B?”
What can B do in this situation, other than point at A and say, “It wouldn’t have happened if A hadn’t done _____.”
We can view such justification as tantamount to a confession of guilt. Certainly, the Party A’s of the world can restrict their every action, can walk around in fear or can simply stay at home all day, fearful of stepping out into the world for fear that Party B will perceive them as a threat and attack them.
But this doesn’t seem like a good solution, when we know what we really need to solve.
I’m looking at you, Party B.