At a recent high school reunion, I was really excited to catch up with old friends. I waited eagerly to chat with them, just like we used to in the school cafeteria. Back then, we were the inseparable five but a lot has happened since and we all got caught up in our individual lives over the years.
Stacie was the first one to make an appearance. Before she could get around to saying hello, she went into a monologue about the various things that had caused her delay. A typical upper-middle class housewife, Stacie currently resides in a mansion with a live-in nanny and attends coffee mornings. She is the mirror image of a socialite who feels she knows everything and judges people on first impressions.
A few minutes later, Abby stepped in with a huge platter of dark chocolate brownies. This used to be our favourite in school and I couldn't wait to indulge myself. Stacie, however, flinched as if she was allergic to them. She went on and on about how we should watch our waistlines if we want to hold on to our husbands. Coming from a woman who had undergone three divorces, I seriously doubted an hour glass figure was the key to a perfect marriage.
Being overweight, Abby didn't feel comfortable getting into this topic so she changed the subject by sharing how much her family relished her cooking. I still remember how challenging it used to be for Abby whenever she went on a diet. With every pound she lost, she felt she deserved to reward herself with a treat to keep the momentum going.
Our conversation was interrupted when Hannah bulldozed her way to the table grumbling about how unfair life was. Her day had kicked in with a bad job interview, she believed all bosses were jerks and she complained that the recession was ruining her life.
The last one to arrive was Amber, who had received a speeding ticket on her way to the mall. Amber has a habit of using other people's irresponsible behaviour to justify her own, "If they're driving way over the speed limit, why shouldn't I?"
Although the reunion didn't go as well as I had expected, it helped me comprehend that some people never change. No, I'm not referring to our undying love for each other. Spending time with my friends, made me realize how we live amidst a culture where we find it convenient to blame others for our problems, life situations, hardships, character flaws and just about everything else. Some of us even blame the recession for our extravagant spending habits and our luck for the bad choices we make in life. Blame shifters can be classified into four personalities:
1. My Way or the Highway:
"I'm only human!" or "God made me this way." Sounds familiar? The Stacie's of this world always feel they can never be at fault when something goes wrong because they are perfect. Even after three divorces, she insists, "I'm so unlucky in love." Stacy refuses to admit that she had any part to play in destroying her relationships. If we have a relationship that falls apart, it isn't God's fault! The fault lies in the people involved in the relationship.
2. Fools in Paradise:
"If I had become class president back then, I would be a more confident teacher today" or "It's because of my hectic schedule that I'm putting on weight." People like Abby live in the past while their future passes them by. Instead of addressing their problem, they prefer to live in a state of limbo. At the end of the day, it's everyone's fault except the one with the fork in her hand.
3. The Self-Pity Specialists:
"The teacher failed me because he has something against me," or "I'm not so cool and that's why no one invites me to their party." Back in school, Hannah always felt she had been dealt a bad hand in life which is why she spent most of her time feeling sorry for herself. Hannah has a habit of hiding behind her fears so she doesn't have to face them. People like her don't want to be haunted by an acute sense of failure, so they feel more comfortable playing the role of a victim of circumstances.
4. Copycats by Default:
"If my husband is too busy socialising with his friends, why should I get stuck at home with the kids?" or "If I had a stable childhood, I'd make a better parent." A full-time mother, Amber is very quick in passing the buck. From speeding tickets to misbehaved children, nothing is ever her fault. It's all courtesy of the incompetent traffic system, the school environment or the influence of television.
It is true that we are victims of many forces in life and no one can judge the extent of our responsibility for the decisions we make. However, somewhere within the personal dynamics of the right or wrong we face, it is we who make a choice.