Is there any point in placing blame?

I'd been asking myself this very question - is there any point in blame - just last night, as 2013 sped to its close. I had started thinking it on a personal level, like we all must from time to time in the bigger battles we have with ourselves around forgiveness. My thoughts, eventually, moved onto considering justice and social justice. Funnily enough, while baking bread this afternoon, I found these questions considered in a great NPR podcast I'd been meaning to listen to for some time. (Radio Lab - NPR - Blame) New Year's Day seems a good time to ponder such things.

On some rational level, certainly blame doesn't serve much purpose. It can eat away at us. For those we blame, it often either eats away at them or makes no imprint. Neither of those is useful. Of course, in blaming others, we are often avoiding the blame we place on ourselves - again, a destructive force. So, I hear the advice of many world religions urging us to forgive and set ourselves free. Yet, I also always remember a boss I had back in the States who had us sit through a whole professional development seminar with him on forgiveness, using the example of the Amish in a book he'd read. A shooter had killed children in an Amish school and the community forgave him. My mind jumped, though, to a news show I had recently seen on the Amish and brothers reportedly raping their young sisters (I am in no way suggesting this a norm in more in this community than any other - just recounting what the show was about). These young men (the brothers) were also forgiven, if showing remorse, and let back into the community. Some of the female victims, though, left the community. There had been no reconciliation, no peace, no acknowledgement of the trauma for them. It seemed very much that the energy of healing had been on the men and not the women - or, perhaps, the community as a whole at the expense of a few. It broke my heart and made me angry. I mentioned this and my boss did not appreciate my contribution much. On an emotional level, individuals and groups in communities sometimes need more space for their pain than communities may find ideal.

It is, probably, important to note that blame and justice are so rarely as black and white, one-sided, and clear as law, society, or religion would often have us think. And, the tangles of guilt and blame can be very painful themselves.

As time has gone on, I am much more aware of my own need to forgive - for my own well-being. I guess that was what so many of us admired in the truth and reconciliation work in South Africa. There was an attempt at forgiveness but there was also an attempt at bearing witness. It is a lot, though, to get all that time and pain processed in a short time for so many people. The friend who told me about this podcast would see things in an even harsher light than I, I suspect. Working through and beyond pain and trauma takes time. This can be very frustrating for my clients, but, often, just when the frustration seems unbearable - a horizon starts rising into view. Ultimately, people deserve the time and space to sit with their pain and trauma, all the emotions that go with giving or feeling blame - no matter how others perceive the situation. It can be very healing. And, yet, ultimately, usually forgiving, in time, is the kindest thing you can do for yourself - the most liberating thing.

Take some time, if you have it, to listen to the podcast at http://www.radiolab.org/story/317421-blame/

Happy New Year everyone! May you have a joyful 2014.