I was listening to a news report on divorce statistics in modern society, when the marriage counselor being interviewed said something that caught my attention. "One of the saddest things I encounter is the way each partner tries to blame the other. It seems that humans have an innate need to assign blame." Wow! But, you know, that's probably true.
I think back to the story of a woman who came into the house and said to her husband, "Honey, I just ran into your car. Who do we sue?" It's become the nature of our society to look for someone to blame.
Product liability suits have led us to warnings and disclaimers everywhere. A cup of hot coffee is spilled on a customer, and now all the paper coffee containers carry a warning: "This beverage is hot!" A TV commercial shows a driver doing crazy stunts to catch the eye of the viewer, and there's a little warning at the bottom of the screen: "Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt this." Duh!
But this isn't new. It's as old as mankind. When God confronted Adam in the Garden of Eden after the first man had broken the only commandment his Maker had given him, what did Adam say? "Lord, you're right. I did it, and I'm sorry." Not on your life. He blamed his wife. If you want to say that men have continued to do this down through the ages, feel free to leave it in a comment. That's not the direction I'm going.
What I'm trying to say is that within our modern society there's a shameful lack of willingness to be responsible for our actions. If I broke it, I'll try to fix it. If I did the job poorly, I'll do it again. If it's my fault, I'll confess and try to make amends.
For those writers among my readership, stop snickering about the way other people act. We're as guilty as the next person. If our manuscript, the word collection we've labored so long and hard over, garners nothing but rejections from agents, it's easy to blame them. "Well, agents don't even read those things. It's all a numbers game. They don't recognize talent when they see it." Or, suppose we do gain representation, but editors turn down our version of the Great American Novel. The same excuses begin to surface. And, if our book actually does get published, but no one buys it, our immediate reaction is "Readers are only interested in trash. It's their fault."
Maybe some of these things are true. Then again, maybe the blame falls on us. We've written a good work, but not a great one. Could it be that we were so happy to finish the novel that we didn't spend enough time on the edits, and the re-edits, and the final polish? But it's no fun blaming ourselves, is it? And taking responsibility for our actions sometimes hurts. Well, I've been told that being a writer requires a thick skin. Maybe this is the reason that's one of the requirements.
I wish I had a pat phrase to use in winding up this post, an answer to this problem that's part of the human condition. Unfortunately, I've probably just generated more heat than light. Then again, maybe I've made you think. If I have, you can blame it on me. I'm willing to accept responsibility for my actions. Don't you wish everyone would?