Recently a dear friend re-posted an interesting blog piece by Dr. Kelly Flanagan called “The Fault in Our Scars.”
I read it and immediately felt a strong irritation arise from deep within.
The irritation was so strong that I felt tempted not to do what I often do to work through reactions like this – blog about other people’s irritating blog posts.
Now that I’ve had a few days’ distance from the post, I suspect my first wave of irritation related to the phrase “It’s not my fault.”
Hearing “it’s not my fault” irks me as much as hearing “I had no choice.”
In fact, in a way, these phrases sound (to me at least) like they are saying the exact same thing.
In the same way I have always felt if I am the one who notices the problem, I am probably the one who needs to fix it, I have never bought into the concept that any human being is ever choice-less.
I do believe sometimes all the choices we have suck.
And I do believe that sometimes being at fault is beneficial and necessary to future growth and even happiness.
But I don’t like the word “fault.”
In pondering further, I think that dislike of the word “fault” may even be at the root and the heart of the irritation I felt when I read “The Fault in Our Scars.”
When I look at the “official” definitions for the word “fault,” I am even more certain this word bears the blame (or fault!) for my dislike.
- An unattractive or unsatisfactory feature.
- Responsibility for an accident or misfortune.
- Criticize for inadequacy or mistakes.
- To be broken by a fault or faults (geology).
Whether – as the “Scars” blogger wrote – it is a miscalculation that causes the frig door to bang into the dishwasher door – or the car bumper into the fence gate – or a deliberate act of destructiveness perpetrated out of spite – well, it is a fine line to tell the difference with our current definitions of “fault.”
As such, I prefer to assume it is the former until it is absolutely proven to be the latter.
And because of this, I also prefer to use the term “oops” to describe whatever occurred.
As in – oops, yup, I did it. I dented the bumper. I missed the deadline. I said/did the wrong thing. I forgot to water the houseplant (again). I burned the leftovers. I broke up our relationship. I left the water on all day (which is why the living room is now flooded).
Perhaps if we more readily owned the so-called faults that we perpetrated, there would be less scarring from committing a fault.
And perhaps if other people’s (or our own) reactions to our so-called faults – whatever they may be – were less extreme, the urge to deny them would lessen accordingly.
It reminds me of something I believe Jesus said about specks and planks.
To paraphase, people who are busy jumping all over the faults or oopses of others might best consider pausing to take stock of their own even bigger faults or oopses first.
In this, I have also found that owning the fault/blame/oops takes the pressure off those around me to a) blame me, b) find someone else to blame, c) deny fault, d) overreact about any of it.
In other words, if I notice there is a problem (and especially if I notice I caused the problem), it is probably me who needs to mention and fix it for the good of all concerned.
Once I do that, I place the incident in the past where it belongs, and everyone is free to adjust accordingly and move forward.
Those who then elect not to move forward, but to stick around and play endless rounds of 20/20 Hindsight or coulda-shoulda-woulda or engage in mean-spirited re-blaming or gossip clearly have their own issues to deal with.
These folks, perhaps, are the ones Dr. Flanagan is addressing when he says “scars” – those who have been so wounded in the past by accusations of unattractiveness, undesirability, or responsibility for an accident or misfortune that they are unable to accurately assess how much reactiveness a present-day situation really requires…or to treat others with the compassion they themselves are still wishing to receive.
In some circles, this might be called “fault-related post-traumatic stress disorder,” when a reaction far outstrips the action that caused it.
We all have this in some area of our lives – or at least most of us do. I know I have certain insecurities or memories that can make responding appropriately in some specific situations more difficult.
But by accepting my faults – by accepting my oopses – by simply accepting – I defuse my own knee-jerk impulse to deny or overreact, and permit myself to take the lead in handling whatever just occurred AND how it plays out now and in my own future.
Here again, I perceive there is a very fine line between owning and oops and then proceeding to privately (or publicly) flog myself for it (or permit others to do so). The former is healthy….the latter not so much so.
But overall, where scars exist now, the hope for a scar-less future also exists.
And it is up to me to take the lead in creating that specific future in my own life.
Today’s Takeaway: What is your reaction to hearing the phrase “It’s not my fault” or “I had no choice?” Do you tend to be someone who readily owns your personal oopses? With a culture literally filled to overflowing with talk shows and reality television based on denying fault and assigning blame, do you feel you have some deep scars when it comes to how fault plays out in your own life?
Woman shrugging photo available from Shutterstock