“When you plant the lettuce, if it does not grow well, you do not blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. Blaming has no positive effect at all.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn
I spent many years blaming my parents for not providing self confidence and self worth in me and my siblings, as we didn’t grow up being praised. While I know that my parents loved us, they were the typical Asian “tiger parents,” who never complemented but criticized. When we brought home a test score of 90, they would ask why we didn’t get 100. If we got 100, they would just keep silent. While it’s not in the Korean culture nor in my parents’ generational practice to praise us, as children, we just want to make our parents proud. After my father passed on, my mother’s heart started to soften, realizing that she wasn’t chained to her old Korean ways, so she was willing to make some changes and our relationship has flourished ever since. For many years, I blamed my shortcomings in life and feelings of inadequacy about myself on my parents. When the blame never helped better my lot in life, which I guarantee it won’t, I shifted my energies to personal transformation. Believe me, I still have those days when I get resentful but I put on the brakes when I catch myself doing so.
We all fall into the trap of blaming others for failures in our lives, as it is much easier to scapegoat others than to look at ourselves in the mirror to avoid the painful truth. Blaming is our way of protecting our ego, which wants us to distract us from discovering our true selves, by finding fault in others. None of us are immune to problems and demons from the past, but do we want to carry the negative emotional baggage to our grave, wasting away our life? Or do we want to empower ourselves by taking control over our lives? I guess I can continue to blame my parents for all my problems but where will that get me?
The only way to make a real positive change in your life is to stop the blame game and look inward — how you can change your thoughts and attitudes, which will naturally change your actions. Blame is not constructive and a waste of our valuable emotional resources — resources you can, instead, use to make positive changes in your life. I had a friend who deeply resented her mother for having abandoned her at birth, so, to this day, she blames her mother for all of her relationship problems with men. Never married, she is convinced that as long as her mother rejects her, she would not be capable of having a healthy relationship with anyone. A self-fulfilling prophecy, she has already written her biography of loneliness and damaged goods for the rest of her life. While she is so busy pointing her finger at her mother, she could be spending that time to find ways to repair that emotional scar by realizing that her past does not have to define her future. When you have placed all of your energies in blaming others, what do you have left for inner transformation and personal growth? It is only when we become better human beings by growing internally that our lives can change for the better.
I knew someone else who always blamed his clients for his lack of business success. He complained that his clients were cheap, difficult and dishonest. Well, that can be found everywhere, but why are other businesses still successful? Instead of examining his own attitude and business practices, perhaps by letting go of cheap or dishonest clients, he always blamed others for all his business failures. As a result, he never saw any growth in his business and was forced to close shop. Instead of just letting go of those bad clients, whom he had no control over, he obsessed about how they damaged his business, so he would harass them with his negative energy. When you exude that kind of negativity, the Universe, which just responds in kind, will remit the same back to you. So the positive change you are seeking never gets delivered to your mailbox. As we say, God helps those who help themselves.
While it may be difficult to stop the blame game, the best way to do so is through understanding. When you catch yourself blaming others, then take a step back, put yourself in their shoes, and look at it from their perspective, which is what I did with my parents. Being born to poor families and having lived through two wars — World War II and the Korean War — both my parents endured very difficult childhoods. As the oldest child in their respective families (my father had 6 younger siblings and my mother 4), they each had to take on adult responsibilities at very early ages, so both worked as teenagers to help support their families financially. Also, being raised with old generation Korean values and cultural influences, they were never taught to praise others, so they could never praise us. Once I understood their childhood lives, I started to become compassionate and release the resentful feelings. Once understanding exists, then feelings of compassion start to sprout, which is when you can explore constructive ways to handle the problem. In later years, when my mother got much older, I had a conversation with her about letting go of some of her old Korean ways — that it was never too late to express her love and praise for us. My mother was receptive to my message, which made us even more closer and loving, so letting go of the blame and embracing compassion actually improved our relationship — a win-win situation for both of us.
Blaming your problems on others just becomes old and tiring like a broken record. By stopping the blame game, you are taking back control over your life and steering your own destiny to a life you actually want to live! A life worth living, now that’s a novelty!
By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living