June 15

It’s Not Your Fault

June 15, 2016

Personal Growth

George hung his head as he told me about his life: he was abandoned as a child, raised by an aunt, taught nothing of social skills, became an accomplished and fairly wealthy professional, married an angry and controlling woman, endured a nightmare stint as a husband and father, experienced a horrifying divorce, was financially devastated, and lost his home and income.

“You feel ashamed,” I said. “More accurately shame is eating you up like a cancer. You can hardly breathe because of it.”

“Of course I’m ashamed,” he said. “Look at my life. I had every opportunity be a complete success, but I failed miserably.”

“It’s not your fault.”

George looked at me as though I had spoken in another language.

“It’s not your fault, George.”

“Then whose fault is it?”

“Imagine this hypothetical scenario,” I said. “When a kid is very young—before any exposure to the game—I take him to a basketball court, and every day I teach him how to play. But instead of dribbling the ball with his hands, I teach him how to dribble with his feet. He becomes quite good at this, so one day I take him to participate in a game.

“The moment someone passes him the ball, he drops it to the floor, dribbles down the court with his feet, and—with considerable skill—flips the ball with his foot into the basket. Result? Two points on the scoreboard? Cheers? Congratulations? No, the referee follows him all the way down the court, blowing his whistle. His team loses possession of the ball because it’s a rule that the ball may not intentionally be moved with the feet.

“Will the audience laugh? Possibly. Should the kid be ashamed of his behavior? NO, since he is actually playing expertly with skills I taught him. I simply taught him the wrong skills, so if anyone should be embarrassed, it would be me.”

This is the story of nearly all of us. The people who taught us to live didn’t know what they were talking about. They didn’t know about unconditional love—the one ingredient most essential to our happiness—so how could they give it to us, or teach us how to use it? In most cases, they didn’t consciously teach us at all. So the truth is that we haven’t failed to learn. We learned quite well. We were excellent students of very poor teachers.

Why is it important to know this? Because if we don’t understand what really happened early in our lives, we’ll unavoidably conclude that the end result—how we now live—is entirely our fault. We’ll feel flawed and ashamed, and those feelings prevent us from being happy and from learning what we need to know.

PCSD

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