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Is there anything more awful that watching people turn on each other? I’ve seen first hand how harmful ongoing conflict can be on relationships. I’m watching a growing division in my community and it is starting to get nasty. Are you experiencing something similar? Maybe there is a growing rift that is shattering your family into a million tiny pieces. Perhaps you are facing unresolved conflict in your marriage. Maybe your kids simply won’t stop bickering and it is really wearing you down. My heart goes out to you.
I live in a small rural town. For the most part we are really nice people. The kind of community where the people would be described as “salt of the earth.” Some of us are rather eccentric and of course we make our fair share of embarrassing mistakes. Just like any community we disagree about politics, religion, music, and how our tax dollars should be spent. But we are basically good, honest and caring folk. So what has happened?
I am not going to go into all the gory details, but in a nutshell the town council has become divided. Horribly divided. Now the division is spilling out into the community. Public meetings have been held and allegations have been made. I’m watching community members take sides and the division is growing. Some of the things being said in public and social media are really nasty. Rumors and innuendo are flying around unchecked and almost everyone involved is playing the blame game.
I’m not innocent. In fact as this conflict has progressed I have found myself passing judgement on the behavior of some people. I have found myself blaming others. Today I realized that none of these things were helpful.
The terrible impact of the blame game
The trouble with the blame game is that it never brings healing. NEVER EVER!
In fact it ALWAYS makes things worse. Judging and blaming others
- Destroys trust.
- Divides community
- Fans the flames of division
- Wounds deeply
These things are not what my community needs right now. We need healing. We need reconciliation.
If you are facing unresolved conflict in your life then you also need these things.
What’s to be done?
Have you noticed that things get messy and hurtful very quickly when both sides are blaming and pointing the finger at each other.
There are a number of different roads that can be taken depending on the situation, including professional mediation and/or counseling. What if you need to do something while you wait for that appointment? A good first step is to
- Stop judging
- Stop blaming.
Right now. Stop today.
Two helpful questions to stop blaming in its tracks
I learned this technique from my very gifted sister in law who uses it to resolve conflict her family. When family members reach an impasse they sit down together and every person must answer two questions.
- What have you done that has hurt the relationship with (name of the other person)?
- What has (name of the other person) done to make it better?
Do you see what this does? Each person must take ownership of their unhelpful behavior and then affirm the other. There are no opportunities to judge. It stops the blame game in its tracks.
Pretty clever huh?
But what if the “other person doesn’t stop blaming?
Here’s the thing. No matter what we do we cannot change other people. This is something I struggle to accept on occasion, but it is the first truest rule I know.
The good news is that I can change myself. (That is the second truest rule I know.) I can recognize that playing the blame game ALWAYS makes things worse. I can stop blaming today.
- Instead of hurling judgement I can recognize that the other person has been hurt too.
- Instead of hurling words of blame I can offer words of encouragement and affirmation.
Or at least hold my tongue!
I’m not saying this is easy. In fact it is really, really hard. As Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery said recently,
“The game is long and exhausting but we already know that Love Wins.”
What if the other person keeps blaming?
- Recognize that it is their choice to keep blaming and has nothing to do with you.
- Seek professional help (mediation and/or counseling).
- If the blaming continues you may need to leave the situation. It is okay to leave. It is healthy to recognize these situations as destructive. It is healthy to leave for your own emotional and mental well-being. Take care of yourself, resist the urge to blame, and love still wins.
What will happen in my community? I have no idea. I do know that if we are to find healing we all have to stop playing the blame game. I can’t force that on others, but I can do that myself. It’s the same for you. If you are in the midst of conflict and want to find healing then you have to stop blaming. You can’t force that on anyone, but you can do that yourself or leave if needs be. The journey may be long and messy, but we know that in the end Love Wins.
I would love to hear from you. Is there a time when blaming and judgement was destroying relationship? How did you escape the cycle of blaming? Leave your comments below.