Tag Archives: Guilt

When You Say ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ it Becomes Your Fault

your fault finger point

(Image/TechCrunch)

Imagine for a moment that two people plan and carry out an armed bank robbery.

Just like you’ve seen in the movies. Wearing masks and carrying guns, they barge into a bank, force customers to the floor, demand the tellers hand over money from the registers, and coax the manager at gunpoint into giving them access to the vault.

It’s stressful and scary for both the gunmen and the people fearing for their lives. The robbers are screaming for the bank employees to hurry up and fill their bags with cash. Everyone else is laying still on the floor praying they don’t die.

One customer has a concealed carry license and is armed with a loaded weapon, or maybe he or she is an off-duty police officer. It’s your imagination. Do what you want.

The hero draws the weapon in an attempt to save the day.

A gunfight ensues. Bullets. Blood. More screams.

When it’s all over, nine people are dead, including one of the gunmen. More are in critical condition at the hospital. The second gunman is taken into custody where he is interrogated by police.

The bank robber makes a credible and compelling case to investigators that his partner planned the entire robbery, and fired all of the shots that killed innocent people. Video footage from inside the bank and evidence recovered from the dead gunman’s house corroborates his story.

“I swear! No one was supposed to get hurt!” the bank robber says.

Because he cooperates with police and is willing to testify in court, and because he never fires any bullets or actually kills anyone, the judge and prosecuting attorney agree to an 18- to 24-month prison sentence, down from the standard five-year mandatory sentence for armed robbery.

Eight innocent people are dead simply because they were making bank deposits, or refinancing loans, or because they showed up for work. The victims’ families, the public and the media are outraged, and demand explanations from the judge and district attorney.

And both essentially say: “Welllllllll. We looked at all the evidence, and the entire thing was a lot more the other guy’s fault than this guy’s. The surviving bank robber didn’t even kill anyone! He didn’t mean to hurt anybody. So we’re not going to hold him responsible since it’s clearly WAY more the other one’s fault.”

Sounds Absurd, Right? 

Of course it does.

It doesn’t matter how much more to blame the other gunman is for the robbery or all the deaths. The surviving bank robber is going down hard, and responsibility for the deaths of those people will be appropriately laid at his feet. He will serve life in prison, even though his portion of the It’s-My-Fault Pie Chart is only 20% or whatever.

Yep! You’re Responsible. 

Next to all of the people who missed the point entirely, the second-most annoying response to the inexplicably popular She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink post was all of the men who thought all of the women who agreed with the post were a bunch of unfair man-haters, and attempted to prove it by sharing a link to another popular internet post called I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly and it Wasn’t Fair.

Some people dropped the link without commentary, as if to say: “This post about dishes and my irrational wife’s feelings are bullshit. She’s guilty of treating me unfairly and being a nagging shrew, and here’s the proof. BAM. How do you like that, morons!?” 

Let me say this: The “I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly…” post is great. I even included it in a post titled Marriage: A Global Epic Fail more than a year ago.

It appears to be the work of a wife practicing humility and introspection in an effort to grow, treat her spouse with more love and selflessness, and contribute positively to the success of her marriage. It’s awesome.

But it’s not some magical Get of Jail Free card for husbands who don’t understand that they’re hurting their wives or care enough to figure out how and why, any more than my loved AND criticized An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series is some kind of free pass for wives who fail to honor their marriage vows.

In good times, and in bad.

So many people responded to that “dishes” post, not with introspective humility, but with finger-pointing outrage.

“You’re giving all the wives a pass, you feminist pussy! Be a man! So our wives get to just freak out about whatever they want, and if we don’t cater to their every whim, we’re shitty husbands!? You’re an asshole!”

To which I respond: Let’s pretend for just a moment that we can prove, beyond all doubt, that in a given marriage, the wife is 75% to blame for any relationship problems that exist. Do the people who feel that way also believe that the spouse with only 25% of the blame is somehow not responsible for that share?

If a man is a minority shareholder in the downfall of his marriage, is he NOT obligated to work to be the best-possible husband he can be in an effort to serve the union, or fight for and protect his family?

Maybe I’m wrong. I am sometimes. But it seems like many people believe that. That because their marriage problems are not entirely their fault, they needn’t concern themselves with being part of the solution.

Own your shit, please.

I don’t blame men more than women, philosophically.

I just know up close and personal what it looks like when the average guy fails his average marriage. It’s a whole bunch of stuff, that looked upon as one little incident, like leaving a dish by the sink, seems outrageously insane and unfair to blame for the demise of a marriage.

But I know it’s not one thing, and I still can’t believe so many people took the dish metaphor so literally. It’s a symptom of a larger problem. One where people so often want to point fingers and blame others for their problems in life, instead of looking in the mirror and asking: “What more can I do? What more can I give?” 

So. Guys. I don’t give a shit how petty and irrational you think your wives are. I don’t give a shit how much more responsible you think your wife or girlfriend is for the negative state of your relationship. And I don’t give a shit how much blame my ex-wife deserves for my failed marriage.

A booming voice from the heavens could thunder “HEY MATT! IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, YOU ARE ONLY 49% RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DIVORCE! SO, IT’S COOL NOW! YOU CAN JUST BLAME YOUR EX FOR EVERYTHING AND KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. NO GROWTH AND CHANGE IS REQUIRED!”… and I’d still have to ask you the question: Why don’t you want to be the best person, husband and father you can possibly be? Why don’t you WANT to grow and be better tomorrow than you were yesterday? What good can possibly come from all the ‘It’s not my fault!’ screaming? 

A life without feelings of guilt?

Because if everyone believes your story, does that really make it true?

When it’s just you and the silence, and nothing but your mind and heart, you KNOW what’s real and what’s not. You KNOW what’s right and what’s wrong. You KNOW what really happened.  

In a world full of blamers, take responsibility.

In a world full of hate, choose love.

In a world full of darkness, be the light.

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Admit It: You’re Just Making This Up As You Go

It's one of those secrets no one told us.

It’s one of those secrets no one told us.

I was just a young hormonal Catholic school boy sitting in church on Sundays begging God to forgive me every time I thought about having sex with one of the girls I saw.

Why am I thinking about sex in church!?!?

I used to think I was so bad.

I used to feel so guilty.

I used to look around at the backs of all the grownups and think to myself: It must be great being an adult! You can control all these thoughts and FINALLY be a good, disciplined person!

I was just a young, helpless virgin with no one to talk to about it. I wonder what THAT feels like!

I’d watch my mom and stepdad living their lives. They NEVER sinned!

I’d sit at the dinner table at my friends’ houses, quietly studying other families. They’ve got it all figured out!

When I was a kid, I didn’t know the secret.

I didn’t know everyone else was wearing a mask, too.

When I was a kid, I thought everyone’s lives were amazing and had every reason to look forward to adulthood when I wouldn’t make mistakes and feel guilt anymore.

I didn’t know everyone was having marital problems, having sex with other people or wishing they were.

I didn’t know the secret until I was well into my thirties: We’re all just making this up as we go.

You Are Not Alone

At least one of you (and probably many more) can relate in some way to all that young, hormonal, confused kid stuff. At least one of you thought you were going to reach adulthood and have the great “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting for, and at some point it finally dawned on you that it never actually comes.

You don’t just wake up feeling like an adult one day.

You always just feel like a scared, confused kid, and realize with horror—maybe after having children of your own—that you ARE an adult, even though you don’t always feel or act like one.

And I just want you to know that you’re not weird.

I just want you to know that you’re not the only person who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be scared. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

That it’s okay to be confused. Because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would. Because not even you are who you thought you would be.

And that it’s okay to be sad. Because you wasted all those childhood years looking forward to these shittier, adult years, never once stopping to think: “Holy shit! I’m a kid! No one needs me for anything! All I have to do in the entire world is hang out with friends all the time and learn stuff! I better enjoy this while it lasts!”

We were all in such a hurry to grow up.

So we could have FUN!

Because we thought drinking beer and having sex and getting into bars and trips to Vegas and having a job with a paycheck would be better than playing playground kickball and freeze tag and passing notes in class and sneaking kisses behind the school.

Because we thought having our own money would be better than our parents just giving us some.

God, we were stupid. And by stupid, I really just mean ignorant. It wasn’t our fault.

It’s natural to want to drive a car. And stay up as late as we want. And go to whatever party we want. And wear whatever clothes we want. To be cool.

It’s natural to be curious. To want to try new things. And to do things we’re not supposed to.

The forbidden fruit, and all that.

It’s natural to want what we can’t have.

I’m not into Buddhism. But Buddhists wisely recognize that we DO gain value in our lives from our pursuit of things we want, even though acquiring or achieving those things didn’t bring us any palpable happiness or perceived value.

That experience brings us value. The garnering of wisdom from chasing and getting, followed by the lack of long-term fulfillment afterward.

That knowledge is valuable. Because it gives us wisdom.

We didn’t fail because our lives aren’t like we thought they would be.

This, in a lot of ways, was inevitable.

Behaving like human beings and suffering the consequences was inevitable.

That’s what’s real.

I think that’s part of really being an adult. Really being human.

I think it’s one of the many fragments of that “Ah-ha!” moment we’re all waiting to experience, but end up collecting one little realization at a time.

When the light bulb clicks.

When it dawns on us that we’re not the only one.

When we see a quote from Socrates and realize: Hell. I already figured that one out for myself.

“The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing.”

It feels good to admit it.

It feels good to grow up.

It feels good to realize all those other boys in church were thinking the same things.

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