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From Blame to Contribution

“For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
- from Genesis 3:19

Adam and Eve both rebelled against God and attempted to blame their foolish decision on someone else. They wanted to escape the consequences for their foolish choice. But it didn’t work. They end up suffering for their decision. Their blaming behavior only earns them relational discord.

Shifting the blame off of ourselves doesn’t protect us in the long run.

When blaming behavior passes unnoticed, it only benefits us temporarily. Our character and our conscience suffer. Little lies go unchecked and grow. Bad decisions become worse decisions. And that’s what happens when we get what we want from passing the buck!

When blaming behavior is caught, conflicts escalate. Trust weakens, falters and fails. We shift into adversarial and defensive postures. We become hyper-literal, sarcastic and deceptive.

There has to be a better way.

The book Difficult Conversations talks about making the shift from “blame language” to “contribution language.” We’ve found this to be one of the most helpful techniques you can use to have healthier communication and conflict.

Take the case of Adam and Eve. When they chose to blame others for their decisions, they snapped their relational connection. The question “Who’s to blame?” overshadowed the problem “How do we get out of this mess? What are we going to do now?” Pointing fingers gets in the way of problem solving.

Instead, each party could have owned their share of the problem. “I contributed this. You contributed that. Together we’re in this mess. What’s next?” Even if the two parties didn’t make equal contributions to the problem, focusing on contribution rather than blame keeps the problem at the center of attention and the relationship intact.

Where do you need to shift from “blame language” to “contribution language”? What makes this shift appealing to you? What makes it sound difficult?

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