I’ve noticed a shift in the way we deal with various mini-crisis in our lives. I remember well as a child and teen listening to my parents and grandparents deal with hard challenges; relationships, health, money, vocation, etc… The approach, for the most part, was to grin and take it on the chin, stiff upper lip, soldier on, big boys don’t cry, you get it… There would be resentment, anger, but this would play out in a rather passive-aggressive manner, the person being put upon would not complain but act and speak in a manner that would betray their disappointment, even if they did so with a smile. Was this healthy? No. The real issues were rarely dealt with, when confronted the person who thought s/he was being victimized would shrug, “I was just kidding” or “No, I’m not mad. How did you come to that conclusion?”
In time we have all tried to become more self-assertive, realizing that a healthier attitude is to put things in the open and most of all, not feel like it is our mission to take the blame for everything that goes wrong. I’ve seen this at work, it is a healthier and more open way of being in relationship. Further, in previous times the hierarchy, implicit or explicit, of our society allowed some groups to feel they could always blame other groups for whatever went wrong. Those who lived “downstairs” had a fatalistic understanding that there was nothing you could do when someone who lived “upstairs” decided to scapegoat the problem.
But increasingly what I see are folks who have become very skilled at deflecting responsibility, using the language of self-assertion and being upfront as a means to say, “It wasn’t my fault. That is your responsibility.” Rather than see a problem as one that affects and can be solved by us all we would prefer to unload the challenge on someone else.
I yearn for a more collective approach to problem solving, not one where we scapegoat the challenge, nor one where we blame everyone else around us for what went wrong but rather where we collectively understand that only working as a team can we fix what lays before us. Yes we need to be open about our frustrations, it does no good to allow our passive-aggressive behaviour to fester. There is a dishonest atmosphere when we meekly deflect our true anger. But surely the individualistic approach we see now, where everyone is out to protect their own interests, does not address some of the crisis that emerge and will continue to emerge, in our complicated lives.
I certainly know I am responsible, in part, for most of the challenges I face. I also know others share in some of that responsibility. It is good for us all to be humble and transparent about our shortcomings. But it is also very good for all of us together to see the possibility of working as a team to meet head on whatever crisis we face.
Together we really are stronger, better, healthier.