Praise and Blame

‘Praise loudly. Blame Softly’ Catherine the Great

Recently, I was on the receiving end of some rather loud blame. I received an incriminating letter from someone I will call ‘the pointer’, who boldly outlined an error that I made that apparently caused a bad outcome for a family he works with. Well, I am a sensitive soul and when someone tells me that I have made an error- it sticks with me for a very long time. Like anyone else, I am fallible and I make mistakes… and when this happens I beat myself up far more than anyone else ever could. True to form I lost sleep- a lot of sleep, and found my mind returning again and again to thoughts of ‘what could I have done differently?’

The particular issue I was dealing with had to do with a written document I had prepared. As I digested the fact that something I had authored was not only flawed but had actually caused harm to another, for a split second, my mind wanted to deflect responsibility. I knew that with a simple phone call to ‘the pointer’  I could blame this bad result on a typographical error and in some small way redeem my sense of honor.  Yes, I could do that, but in truth, I had not made a typographical error- I had simply made an error. One small error in a rather voluminous document- and apparently this error was having a domino effect on several people’s lives. I  spent many days mulling over how to handle the clean up.

After much thought,  I made the obligatory phone call to ‘the pointer.’  The pointer was cordial, but assured me that it was indeed my error that had created the problem that was now spilling out all over the place. I apologized, took responsibility, and offered to re-do a new original document at my own expense. It felt like the only reasonable thing to do. I was much more at peace after this as I waited to hear from the family that I would be re-servicing.

I heard from that family last week. It was a tearful phone call as the trembling voice on the other end of the line confided in me all that occurred over the preceding few months. A series of errors had been made that had sequentially brought this family to the outcome they were now facing. I was astounded at what I was hearing…the ball had been fumbled long before I ever even arrived on the field. By the end of this 10 minute phone call it was abundantly clear that my singular error had been made the scapegoat to a long and flawed process. It was true, I had made a mistake, but my blunder had little bearing on the overall outcome. My error was simply placed under the microscope because it allowed the ‘pointer’ to remain unscathed in his own mind. Wow.

After this conversation I was adrift between polarized emotions- part of me was elated that I no longer felt the burden of guilt for causing detriment to another, but the other part of me was angry at my accuser- who apparently had no problem throwing me under the bus he was driving.

What a great life lesson- and despite the fact that I made a writing error, I am pleased that I didn’t make other more serious errors; I resisted the temptation to make excuses by crying ‘typo’, and I did grin and bear it by picking up the phone to ‘take my medicine’ from the pointer- and I did it without retaliating or making excuses.

As I digested all that had occurred an old and favorite saying ran through my head…. ‘ One finger out and three pointing back.’ Ah! Sweet. Simple. Truth.

In the grand scheme of things, I made out pretty well. I only had to spend a few days with one finger pointing out at me….my accuser is stuck indefinitely with three pointing back at him.


2 thoughts on “Praise and Blame”

  1. Thanks Annette for sharing this insight. It is a truth to my heart. I am sorry for any nights you have spent with tormented sleep. Your heart is genuine. I admire your ability to stand tall in spite of recoiling accusations. I relate and feel like I have been taught this day! with love, Jodie

    1. Thank you Jodie! I learned a lot from this experience- maybe most imortantly how easily I accepted the blame and did not push against it a little more, or investigate more on my own. Taking blame that is not ours is not all that much better than delivering it to someone who does not deserve it. Always learning!! Thanks for sharing you thoughts <3

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