The Separation of Blame and Responsibility

Blame and responsibility. We marry these two things together naturally. We figure that blame for something means we are responsible for it, and also the inverse, that if we are not to blame for something, we are not responsible.

I have recently been reading the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and the author Mark Manson makes a big point of the idea of radical responsibility, which is that we are responsible for everything in our lives, but we are not to blame for these things. It’s a good trick of language to divide these concepts, and frees us up to look at the world in a refreshing way.

Try this game: think of a problem in your life or the world, and release yourself from blame while accepting responsibility for it.

You are not to blame for not being rich, but you are responsible for handling your finances, and you are responsible for how you feel about money.

You are not to blame for climate change, but you are responsible for protecting the world.

You are not to blame for the shitshow the Internet has become, but you are responsible for which social media you choose to use or reject.

You are not to blame for the dumpster apocalypse of our political system, but you are responsible for helping to fix it.

You are not to blame for having feelings for a coworker, but you are responsible for acting like an adult and not cheating on your wife.

You are not to blame for the misuse of AI and robots to manipulate, deceive, and take away value from human life, but you are responsible for supporting social constructs that protect us from this misuse.

You are not to blame for your crappy habits, but you are responsible for changing them into good habits.

You are not to blame for belonging to a country that assassinates foreign leaders, but you are responsible for pointing out that our own laws forbid this.

Executive_Order_11905

So much of our culture is about retributive justice and punishment for wrongs we commit. But there is no evidence that following this script will lead to a better world in our post-shame slophouse. Instead, we can make more progress but placing ideas like Justice into the same dump we place Rights and Reason, and thinking instead how we can build better selves and a better world.

You are not to blame for blaming yourself for everything, but you are responsible for stopping the needless cycle of recriminations you are subjecting yourself to.

Picture of Quinn, who I am delighted to be responsible for.

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