Have you ever been in one of those cyclical arguments when it has already gone on far longer than it should have, both parties have apologized for their respective mistreatment, unkindness, and insensitivity, but just it keeps going?
We've been in that place more times that I would like to admit.
In this particular instance, we were both hurt, feeling alone and angry, because what we wanted and needed seemed to be unimportant to the other.
We had found ourselves in a tough place where the task of waking up and breathing everyday felt like it took all we had individually, leaving us little to offer to the other. We were deeply sad, disappointed, and desperately seeking direction. But we turned all of the emotion laterally on the person in closest physical and emotional proximity.
With short fuses and little reserve, we went at each other, and then kept going and going.
I’d blame him for something he did and then he’d blame me for something I did.
Some accusations were legitimate, some were not.
What we both wanted and needed from one another was to not be blamed for our part that contributed to the circumstances we in. We were already doing a pretty darn good job being hard on ourselves, feeling like we didn't have what it took and like we had failed individually. Shouldering the weight of blame from the other seemed unbearable.
But instead of comforting one another we indulged ourselves in this nasty and destructive little game of blame.
Relenting seems unthinkable in moments like those because it might mean we lose the game altogether. But beat down, worn thin, and battered by the perpetual blaming, we realized we had one of two choices;
1. We could keep at one another, rubbing salt deeper into the wounds that were already gaping.
2.We could stop blaming the other for their part and instead offer compassion that would begin to heal the hurt.
The Cycle of Shame
The weight of shame that a person carries, as described to me by a counselor, can only grow so great and then, they can’t take anymore. When we max out at our shame capacity, our souls say ‘enough with it already’ and we start shoveling it off by blaming those around us.
When I first heard the shaming and blaming cycle explained like that, I thought someone had peered straight into my soul. It was terrible.
Being able to identify that cycle in our conflict has not only enabled us to examine where it is that our own shame is stemming from, but it has enabled us to reach towards the other with compassion.
Viewing blame in this light doesn’t nullify the hurt inflicted on you by another. But it can help you can gain perspective and that perspective can lead to something powerful; compassion.
The Final Round
We had to put an end to it. The blaming mess needed to stop once and for all and it needed stop right then.
For the competitive people we are, compassion doesn’t seem like a good strategy to win.
But ultimately compassion wins out
The blaming game ends when we stop rubbing salt deeper into each other’s wounds and cover them instead with the compassion that will help heal.
It stops when we start by extending a compassionate hand, instead of an angry fist metaphorically.
It’s hard to look past your own hurt and anger, which may be legitimate, to see the wounds of another that you can help bring healing to with compassion.
Compassion reaches to depths that we’ll never see and holds far greater power than we realize.
Ultimately, the game is won when you extend compassion.