I recently read a book by Dr. William Knauss that may offer even more insight into my purposes on this blog (“Take Charge Now: Powerful Techniques for Breaking the Blame Habit”). Knauss defines criticism or blame as the process by which we hold someone responsible, possibly instituting censure as a consequence.
Ideally, blame is then a matter of taking responsibility for our words and actions, a process that can be objective, hopefully working toward a productive and beneficial end. This process should rely upon rules of conduct, standards, evaluation of behavior, some degree of accountability, and possible penalties for violating those standards (pg 6). Knauss suggests that we should aim to look at criticism as descriptive rather than as a personal assessment, something to which I aspire and intend. I do admit, however, that when discussing matters or people that we admire passionately concerning matters of faith and how we live out that faith, the process of keeping things descriptive requires a great deal of maturity. We are all maturing!
If we each gave and accepted blame according to this more dispassionate view, blame would not be such an emotionally charged process. But as everyone knows, blame has extended meanings. Once we’ve established fault, when we extend this blame by adding condemnations, character assassinations, and unwarranted criticism, we go beyond what is necessary. Understanding and defusing these extensions of blame is, perhaps, the most important thing people can do to increase their happiness, establish positive relationships, and reduce stress. Predictably, eliminating extensions of blame should promote fewer hassles, and people will lead happier, saner lives (pg 6).
Extensions of blame add nothing constructive and detract from problem solving and positive human relationships. Alertness to extension-of blame thinking opens opportunities for avoiding it…
The more dangerous blame extensions involve a blanket condemnation of people themselves rather than their mistakes and faults. When you totally condemn someone, you can justify retaliatory action against the person. At the extreme, we see these global retaliatory extensions of blame in Adolf Hitler’s views toward….. His [Hitler’s] extension-of –blame fiction becomes obvious when we ask “How can a complex person be only one way or another?” (pg 7).