Reflecting on international students and culture the other day, a colleague commented on how a group of students who had been struggling in classes refused to blame anyone for their failing grades, took responsibility, and made no excuses. He was surprised because U.S. students usually go on and on with excuses, blaming roommates, teachers, the school, society, but not accepting their own part in not meeting the expectations for the class.
I thought it was an interesting point. I, too, tend to blame and make excuses. I'm often late for things and the first words out of my mouth are apologies and all the reasons why I'm late. Although they may be perfectly logical reasons, and sometimes an explanation can be helpful, I don't think I've ever said "I'm sorry for being late. It's my responsibility for not keeping my promise with you."
Of course it's not just regarding time. Blame comes up repeatedly in any kind of bad situation.Melissa Miller suggests that this relates to a need for control. "If we can just figure out what went wrong, the reasoning goes, we can prevent any bad thing from ever happening."
Since the international student group my colleague talked to distinctly did not blame others for their situation, might this tendency to blame be cultural, not universal? Not wanting to feel the emotions that accompany an uncomfortable situation, do some cultural groups avoid by blaming? Or is it this need for assigning blame part of an understanding of justice?
In the new year, as I reflect on goals achieved and missed from last year, and my hopes and dreams for 2011, I hope to make a cultural change from blaming to taking responsibility and making things right. This type of change takes time, perhaps more than a year. Yet I trust that the Spirit of truth, who refuses takes on the bad stuff of the world, will empower and work through these efforts.