Who’s To Blame? Anyone? Part 2

Then what about responsibility?

May 11, 2021

Blaming, accusing your partner (or yourself) of having caused something “bad” that has happened in your relationship, is very common. It’s also automatic and baseless. 

An accusation is an assertion of cause, and an assertion requires evidence in order to be valid. So courts, and other institutions, look for evidence. Ultimately, because every event is preceded by some other event, who or what is to blame is determined by how far back in a chain of events one goes in looking for evidence for what caused something to happen. The point at which you stop looking for causes determines what you consider to be the “real cause.” The arbitrary stopping point is the basis for assigning the cause of something, and blame for it.

Therefore, It could be argued that designating someone, such as your partner or yourself, as the cause of something in your relationship is quite arbitrary. Upon examination, almost anyone (or anything) could be designated as the “real” cause, because “cause” is an arbitrary assignment rooted in ceasing to look any further back. 

Then what about responsibility? Surely there must be someone or something that is ultimately responsible for things that happen in relationships.

But isn’t it possible that things happen without someone making them happen? Consider that you cannot make a tree grow. Perhaps you can assist in its growing and even modify its growing. But you don’t cause it to grow. 

Unlike cause, responsibility cannot be assigned. Someone or something cannot be truly responsible if they’re  assigned responsibility by someone else. That’s what distinguishes responsibility from cause -- and blame. 

Authority and control, which are said to be synonyms for responsibility, also cannot be assigned because the one who is doing the assigning is actually in control. And while other synonyms for responsibility include blame, culpability, fault, etc., they do not exactly express the meaning and intent of responsibility because they are also assigned. What distinguishes responsibility is that it is “taken” and owned.

If you were to trace the original meaning and intent of “responsibility,” you will find it related to sponsor, and on to pledge and promise. One can’t be forced into a promise. A forced promise is not an authentic promise. Promise carries with it the notion of being volitional, not forced. Ultimately, being responsible is a stand that one takes.  

In terms of speech acts, responsibility is a declaration. In “taking” responsibility, one is declaring oneself as a unique point of view that uniquely shapes all that occurs for him/her. No one else accomplishes that shaping. In that sense, one can have only his/her point of view, and no one else is establishing that point of view. He/she is responsible for everything as it uniquely shows in his/her point of view.

When you understand the nature of responsibility, and how it is completely distinct from causing, then upsets in your relationships that might tempt you to fall into blaming become opportunities for both persons to take on responsibility for the future of the relationship. That is an opportunity for true creativity in relationships. 


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