Who’s to Blame

The Causes of things are complicated, and rarely do they go how we’d like them to go. So, it’s easy to point the finger – at other people, unfair conditions, the weather, the advice we got.

  • If it hadn’t been for ____, I’d have won.
  • Why did so-and-so have to get involved like that?
  • It’s all ____’s fault.

And yet, the causes of things are also quite simple, at least according to the Stoics. Because to them, the fault always lies within us. They would say:

  • We’re the ones who chose to listen to that advice.
  • We’re the ones who left the outcome to change, who didn’t plan for all the contingencies.
  • We’re the ones whose expectations set us up to be disappointed.

Marcus Aurelius’ rule was: “Blame yourself – or blame no one.” The Apostle Matthew has a similar take.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)

It is the other side of the idea that the only place to look for approval is from God.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

The same goes for disapproval and fault-finding. As soon as you try to get it from other people, you’ve compromised your integrity. You’ve handed over your power to another.

Remember that the next time you are complaining or frustrated by someone else’s ego, your spouse’s anxiety, or a friend’s temper. It’s silly to try to escape or fix them. Instead, try to escape and fix your faults. There’s plenty of work to do there, trust me. Enough to keep you busy for a lifetime, without ever needing to waste a second getting involved in somebody else’s business.

“Each one should test their actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their load.” (Galatians 6:4-5)

So, either don’t blame anyone or . . . blame yourself. For whatever happens. For everything that happens. Those are your real options.

What say you man of Valor?

Adapted from “Daily Stoic Email, 13 December 2022

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