What’s the Difference Between Responsibility and Blame?


Not everything is your fault. In fact, most things are not your fault; you had nothing to do with them. You didn’t ask to be born to these people or at this time or this place, at least so far as we know. You didn’t invent the language you speak. You didn’t have a choice about your genetics, nor your early childhood experiences, nor ninety-nine percent of the experiences you have now. You might have chosen the person you married, but you chose him from a very limited field of possibilities. Unless you adopted and are remarkably prescient, you didn’t choose your children.

You don’t know all the consequences your actions will bring before you set them into motion. If you didn’t have that second cup of coffee and left your house ten minutes earlier, you might have been hit by that truck that barrel-assed through an intersection with no brakes. If you had a third cup and left twenty minutes later, you wouldn’t have been caught in traffic caused by the accident and would have gotten to work on time. There is no such thing as a fully informed choice.

Because of all this, many people say we don’t have free will. They claim everything is completely determined by neurochemicals and the accidents of particularity. Well, maybe they’re right. It could be that you’re entirely blameless. Even if you’re the biggest jerk on the planet, it’s not your fault, it’s your genes’. But, here’s the thing:

You may be blameless, but you’re still responsible.

Take the word, responsible, break it apart, and you’ll see why. Response Able. You have the ability to respond. In fact, because you have the ability, you’re obligated to respond. People are waiting.

You’re obligated to respond because you can’t not respond. Even if you say nothing or do nothing, that’s a response. It may be a piss-poor response, but it’s a response. Actually, nobody is waiting, you’ve already responded; but, they are waiting for you to claim responsibility.

Claiming responsibility means admitting that you have the ability to respond. It’s called getting real.

You didn’t choose your parents or the time, place, and circumstances of your birth, but it’s your job to do something with it. You didn’t choose the cards, but you play them. You didn’t chose your genotype, but your phenotype is a more complex matter.

You didn’t choose the life you were born into; but, as you age, you begin to get the life you deserve.