Finding Fault: Feeling Judged

Fault-finding is a common response when faced with disappointment and inconvenience. Every person approaches a problem or setback in one of two ways. Some focus on the problem or the reason why a problem emerged (problem focused thinking). Others prefer to think about possible solutions that help them to solve a problem (solution focused thinking).

One facet of a problem focused approach is to relieve the discomfort of “not knowing who did it,” by blaming and finding fault. As if such “answers” will provide security and a feeling of being “in control” of a situation.

Another aspect of a problem focused approach is to achieve “fairness.” This motivates us to seek out the “perpetrators” so that we can give them the punishment that they deserve. “How else will they learn the error of their ways?”

This never works. In an imperfect world, imperfect people often make mistakes that are not intentional and therefore, hardly a matter of criminal activity that warrant guilt and punishment. When children knock something over accidentally, is that a fault? Or is it a human imperfection? Do such “faults” have to be “found in the name of “justice?”

The purpose here is not to improve relationships or to secure cooperation, it is to show responsibility. Some take it upon themselves to provide accountability and prevent others from getting away with it, which they assume will avoid more problems in the future.

A third component of a fault based, problem focused approach is the implied superiority that is associated with “judging”. How do you judge superior and inferior in humans? What is the standard? Who is the average person to compare against? The truth is we really do not know what is best. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are absolutes. We have enough trouble figuring out what is best for ourselves, how can we know what best for anyone else.

Our mistake is to take these judgements literally, personally, and serious. When we do, we make the mistake of choosing to plead our case in an imaginary court of law with a judge and jury of one. We make the mistake of defending our innocence to avoid being convicted as guilty and deserving punishment.

The issue is not guilt, fault or blame; the issue is human imperfection. We are still worthwhile human beings in spite of what happened. It was not a crime to make a mistake and we are not guilty.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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