I came across an interesting quote from someone the other day (apologies that I cannot remember the reference), which reads something like “We don’t so much see the world as it is, as we see the world as we are”. Underneath the sugar-coated simplicity of the statement, lies a more fundamental truth which, in my view, separates lambs from lions in the world. Those who achieve and move from those who whine and become marginalised. That fundamental truth lies in where you look for explanations of events in the world, good and bad and where, by extension, you feel that the power in your world resides.
In the news recently is the story about the child who went to school with swords and killed one of his schoolmates in a rampage that the public is still struggling to come to terms with. No sooner had the event happened, than the bible-huggers blamed satan, the community blamed the parents and the parents blamed the school bullies. The common thread here is that in all cases, so many of the involved parties cannot bring themselves to face up to what their role was in the tragic raising of what clearly appears to be a disturbed child. Yes, the bullies would have hurt him and contributed to his psychological deterioration, but so too must his parents surely have failed to detect that their child was so badly disturbed? Why in the name of fudge did they allow the youngster to collect what apparently appears to have been an arsenal of Japanese swords, and why did they not have a relationship with their child that would have allowed them to realise he was so unhappy? Finally, when will a conservative, bible thumping community realise that not everything that is different is bad, is satanic, and must be condemned. Where were the people who exercise tolerance, who preached a message that it was OK for this child to be different, that there was a space in society that people like him could exist and not be derided and made an ‘outsider’ for it?
The point here, is that there is more than enough blame to go around. The creation of a mind like this child had, and the inattention to allow it to get this far is the combined result of dozens of linked threads of societal, school and parental failure. Yet none of the involved parties seems willing to step up to the plate and take ownership of their role in the events that unfolded – asking what they should have done different to avoid this outcome. Everyone simply falls over themselves to insist that there was only one or two major themes to blame, and that those themes were the responsibility of everyone else except them.
While I could rant on end about this particular case, my point here is more general. When things go wrong (or right) in the world – how quick we are to blame extraneous factors (the world, other people, everything and everyone except ourselves). While I don’t think that others are exempt from blame, there is usually a part of it that applies to us. Do we then focus on the wrongs that others have perpetrated, having little or no power to change those aspects of our reality, or do we look inside and face up to what part we played in the way the world is and seek to change our actions – somewhere where we have real and direct power to make a difference.
You see, looking to others for blame and explanations takes away any power we have to make a different world, while looking inside and admitting where we are wrong allows us the power to make something different – to change a single variable and hope for a different outcome. It is the hardest thing to do, because it means admitting that you are wrong (frequently) and having to change, change and change again. But it’s the fundamental difference between a life which is yours to live, and a life which others live for you.