Are You a Blamer?

You are responsible for my problems.  Get your act together!

Statistics tell you that you don’t need to be in the 7-figure net worth club to be part of the rarefied segment of top 1% in the world.  It certainly doesn’t take much to be in the top 10%.  Still, by definition, this means 90% of the world is not there and most are nowhere close.   Granted, a large portion of those in the bottom 50% are in developing and third world countries, and they are victims of unfortunate circumstances.  However, there are many in the 51%-90% group who have had reasonably good upbringing including 3 meals a day, a roof above their heads and a decent secondary education.  Most are employed and make enough to be considered fortunate compared to the bottom half of the world’s population.

Yet, they are unhappy and live way below their potential.   

In my FI journey, I have come across many such people – as neighbors, partners, friends, relatives, co-workers and even bosses.    There is one common thread that runs through most of them.   They blame others for their condition in life.

This blame takes on several forms.   For some, it is how terrible their boss or un-supportive spouse is, how limiting their finances are to take risks (even if they have positive net worth), how messed up the public infrastructure and taxation systems are, how screwed up the world is, and even how crazy or untrustworthy the people around are – some or all of which are responsible for their own misery.   Every disappointment in life is somebody else’s fault. They love to gossip about others’ weaknesses or deficiencies and rant about how their day was messed up by someone who made a passing remark.  The audacity, how dare can someone ‘hurt’ their feelings by speaking an obvious truth?  They get along only with similar-minded complainers, as long as they aren’t blaming each other!  Misery loves company, as it is said. 

Blame leads to anger and anger leads to suffering.   Even if some of the ‘blamers’ learn to outwardly mask their anger for social reasons, a life lived blaming others and external circumstances for their present condition is a horrible existence.  Unfortunately, I am related to a few such people and they intrude my life more than I wish.   They drain the energy out of me every time I attempt to have a meaningful conversation.

Blaming is one of the worst (but psychologically comfortable) behaviors of a human being because it completely absolves your role and responsibility. For some, blaming is a coping mechanism. By squarely making other people responsible for your failures and disappointments, your mind plays a cruel trick that hides the truth and sets you up for unresolved misery.   

The problem with blamers is that they never hold themselves responsible for almost anything.  If somebody is richer than you, then they must have made their money through questionable means or they simply lucked out with a huge inheritance (even if facts say otherwise).  If somebody has a better career, that means they are good at sucking up to their bosses.  If somebody is more educated than you, then they were simply born into privilege or their parents had ‘connections’ to get them into the best schools.   If somebody is more successful than you, then they had a supporting spouse or partner unlike what you have.   If your in-laws hint to keep your house in order, then how dare they?  They raised their son or daughter to be slobs, and they now tell me to keep my house clean?

Blame, blame and more blame.

This is such a vicious cycle that once you are into the blame-culture, it is very hard to get out of it.  It takes a disruptive event – one that defies all imagination and importantly, one that eliminates every possible opportunity to blame others – for those blamers to finally realize that they alone are responsible for their life’s mess.  The unfortunate truth, as I have seen in some cases, is that by the time such an event comes, all the good people in their life would have left them (either by death or in disgust).  

The difference between blaming and criticism is that the former is a hopeless coping mechanism, and the latter can be constructive.  Both blame and criticism have one thing in common, the ego of the source.  As a beneficiary of constructive criticism, I see the value of useful criticism as long as the intention of the source is honorable (that is, to ensure the job is done right or to get you to improve and progress in your own life/career). Otherwise, it is simply negative criticism or useless blaming.

There is an interesting quote from a reformed food critic, appropriately named, Anton Ego, from the Disney animated movie Ratatouille.

Anton Ego, food critic from Ratatouille.   

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so…  (Anton Ego)

Critics can reform, but blamers don’t!  Blaming is such a convenient excuse for many that they remain stuck in their life and justify their mediocrity by designating everyone else in their world as responsible for their present situation.  Constantly finding faults in others might be ‘fun’, but as Anton Ego notes, the reality is that the average work done by an average person is more meaningful than a blamer who finds it convenient to blame others for being ‘average’.

What do you think?  What percentage of the people in the world would be in the blamers ‘category’?  How does ‘blaming’ hurt in the pursuit of FIRE?  Do you know or have direct experience with any blamers? Please share your views below.

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11 comments on “Are You a Blamer?”

  1. By theFIREstarter

    Nodding my head along to this one 10!

    I think there are probably less blamers in the world than we perceive because as others have pointed out we are all at it at some point, and so people may be labelled as blamers a bit unfairly. Having said that there are obviously some hardcore blamers who thrive on this stuff, you couldn’t imagine them *not* being a blamer!
    Maybe those are in the 5% range in the wider world? Who really knows.

    I definitely think a blamer can reform, but it has to come from within. If you call out a blamer they will just turn on you and blame you for being horrible to them or something like that won’t they! Hah, the irony!

    Second the blamers are complainers, a related species but slightly different I feel, although they will indulge in blaming sessions as well.

    • By TFRadmin

      Thanks for your comment. I feel it is more than 5%, probably closer to 50% because they are always looking at the ‘other 50%’ and thinking how are they happy?! Who knows but the point is, there is huge difference between a situation-driven blamer versus a persistent blamer. We have all been the former, but the latter is what keeps you achieving your true potential.

  2. By Jacq

    We had a training at my last job about communication and this concept of blame /life happening to you/at you. We had to tell a story where someone else was at fault. Some people used a rumor about them started by someone else, maybe a minor car accident or speeding ticket. Mine was a fire in my apartment building. The building has 3 floors, and front and back units. 1st floor back did something dumb, and the local news website has pictures of a water cannon, as flames lick out of the eaves of the building, I’m only had water damage and pretty much all irreplaceable (hand crafted gifts) items were fine. I had renter’s insurance and in the end things were ok. Everyone agreed that was a proper assignment of blame.
    Lots of other situations I’ve been in are my own fault due to decisions, lack of information etc. My fridge magnet says “Always make new mistakes.”

    • By TFR

      Interesting story! Thanks for sharing, Jacq. Love the fridge magnet quote.

  3. By Raj@finance nize

    Blaming is not a good thing at all, but sometimes we can’t avoid blaming tho who really deserves it. Everyone is a blamer nowadays at a certain point. The article is written well and I enjoyed reading it, I believe everyone should read this article, we should limit our bad habit of blaming, crossing such limits will land you in unnecessary trouble! Also it’s better to think before splitting any words from the mouth, most of the people don’t get this and end up hurting or blaming someone else.

    • By TFR

      Thanks Raj. Blaming, like a psych drug, should be used very sparingly, ideally not at all! It is unproductive most of the times.

  4. By Andrew @ Dollar After Dollar

    Really enjoyed this post. It’s a great time to re-evaluate where we do this in our own lives.

    Even though we are the most privileged society in the history of mankind, we still blame for what we don’t have. The blame stems from our selfish nature. Blinded by entitlement. It is much easier to spot another blamer than realize that we also have been a blamer at some point.

    Excessive blaming is prevalent everywhere. It can be a cancer to someone’s success.


  5. By Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes

    I believe everyone is a blamer at some point in their lives. We’re all guilty of it *sometimes*.

    Is ‘blaming’ like that correlated with a poor lot in life?

    Hard to say, but I do believe learning from mistakes is important….and learning from mistakes is impossible without some admission of ‘fault’ being with yourself.

    I read an intelligent quote once (and the source is long forgotten), “The source of all your problems in life is YOU”.

    I found the idea to be fairly astute.

    • By TFR

      Agreed, Mr. Tako. It’s OK to blame occasionally if the object of your blame deserves it and you also don’t dwell on it to unhealthy levels. This article is more about people who use blaming excessively, and also as a coping mechanism for just about every issue they face. Unfortunately, I do know a few such people and find it hard to have a normal conversation with them. While not mathematically provable, I find there is an anecdotal correlation between mediocre lives and let’s say “above average” blaming tendencies.

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