As leaders in our own lives, our greatest challenge is to own our negative behaviour rather than hold others responsible for what we think, feel or do. No one, I repeat, no one can make us think, say or do anything. We choose to react with blame when we could also choose to react positively or not to react at all. When we blame others for our own experience, we project onto them what we do not want to face in ourselves. The hard truth is we shirk responsibility and choose to remain unconscious of the impact of our actions. The Blame Game is so deeply embedded into our social psyche that our habitual reaction is to assume the other person(s) is at fault (i.e., “She made me angry.”).
As a global society, we choose to remain unconscious to the part we individually and collectively play in whatever is the scenario of conflicting views. Every time we project responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and behaviours onto others, we deepen the pattern of blame and judgment. In essence, we perpetuate revenge and war rather than compassion and forgiveness. Humanity’s traditional relationship model is based on war — win or lose.
I asked an audience of YWCA Canada national leaders what they thought the answer would be if nation heads from around the world were asked, “Do you value peace?” The response was a unanimous “Yes.” When I asked if the same leaders were practicing peace, the unanimous answer was “No.” Herein lies one of the clearest examples of an unconscious pattern of revenge, blame and judgment. Their words do not reflect their behaviour.
You are always living a reflection of whatever you are outputting . . . , if you
get into a little pocket where a lot of people are being rude [warring], it’s probably
because you are being rude. Nothing ever happens to you that is not part of
your vibration! Esther Abraham-Hicks
The key to living and leading consciously and authentically is to be aware of one’s present moment sensations, thoughts and feelings, and then align them with who you want to be in the world, or more concretely, with what you value. In my case, my values are peace, love and joy. My challenge is to own my frustration and impatience — which, even though I might blame someone else for, are really how I feel about me. The very act of claiming responsibility for my negative feelings alters me. I halt the projected blame pattern. However, it does no service to others or me if I turn the blame inward. Rather, my practice is to remember to think, speak and treat others and myself with what is important to me — peace, love and joy. In other words, it is not enough to believe in world peace, we must also practice world peace through reflecting it in our thoughts, words and actions.
What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life,
you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my
way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my
life. Oprah Winfrey
True to human nature, when we allow our frustrations, impatience and anger to prevail, they expand into win-lose (war) interactions and scenarios. Remember, the war we create outside ourselves already exists within. We create our external reality with our thoughts, words and actions. Therefore, our outer world is a reflection of our inner experience. I think Alexander Pope said it best, “To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.” When we react negatively to others’ thoughts, words and behaviours, we are allowing them to live “rent free” in our heads. In other words, we are assuming responsibility for their experience by blaming them for our angry reaction.
Let’s try something different. Is there someone you recently felt anger (frustration, impatience, etc.) toward? Picture the scene in your mind. Now ask yourself, “Why am I angry at me?” Allow the question to sink deeply into your consciousness. By that, I mean sit patiently with the question rather than reject it outright. When I did this the answer I discovered — “because I cannot control others’ behaviour”. Aha, the rational truth emerged! An additional truth — the frustration and impatience I project onto others is not how I want to be treated. It is not peaceful, loving and joyful. The rational conclusion — let go of negative thoughts, words and actions. They serve no one.
The next time you experience anger before you do anything else, ask yourself, “What am I thinking, saying or doing that triggers my anger?”
I would love to hear your stories as you practice Owning Up.
To learn more about living authentically, purchase my book From Now to WOW.