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Point a finger, Three point back

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

“When you point a finger at someone else, do you know that three of your fingers point back at you?” I’m sure many of us have heard of that saying in our younger years. However, do we actually know the significance of that expression? Normally, it is a human instinct for us to shift the blame onto someone else without being told to. For example, most of us while growing up, we would have accused our siblings of something to our parents at least once, when in truth, we were the actual culprits. But really, why do we blame others?

The psychological term for the word “blame” is “psychological projection,” which is when the ego defends itself by projecting negative and undesirable feelings onto other people, rather than admitting it itself. This clearly shows that people blame because they want to get out of a difficult situation without going through too much trouble, and so the easiest way out is by holding someone else accountable for the problem. People are often scared of the consequences if they admit to their faults. Therefore, despite realising that it is their responsibility to own up to their mistakes, people still blame others as an act of defending themselves.

In some cases, blaming others can also give the blamer a sense of dominance over someone, primarily over people who are emotionally weaker and more vulnerable because they would not have the bravery to fight back and take their stand. By blaming others, people exert control through multiple actions such as manipulation, intimidation and even threats. This can be explained as a way of controlling people, and in worse cases, can be a form of abuse as well. But then again, most people do not just blame for no reason. Some do it out of guilt and they use blame to get rid of the guilt, whereas others might be past victims of blame, enforcing the same thing they experienced in order to obtain the satisfaction of having power and control, something they might have wanted when they were on the receiving end.

Naturally, this action has its own consequences. As we continuously blame others, it will eventually develop into a habit, and in the long term this habit will affiliate itself with your personality as a whole, causing different bad personality traits to arise such as self-centredness, anger management issues, narcissism and many more. This does not only affect an individual, it also affects a whole group in general. Take blame culture for example. In a company that practices blame culture, when a mistake is spotted, the higher ups will start pointing fingers at their employees while the employees will point fingers at their own colleagues, until they decide to lay all the blame on one person and single them out. Instead of identifying the core of the problem and learning from it, any chance of them improving as a team is completely ruled out once they start blaming each other.

And now, look at how blame has affected our country, in dealing with the ongoing pandemic. Despite successfully flattening the curve last year to a single digit, Malaysia has witnessed a new outbreak, causing a drastic surge in Covid-19 cases that started in early April 2021. Instead of figuring things out and trying to fix the issue, the government blamed the citizens for not adhering to SOPs, causing the cases to rise again. Naturally, the citizens were outraged. Though it is true that there are people who are irresponsible and still disobey SOPs, the blame should not be put on the whole rakyat for the mistakes of a few. “It goes without saying that although there are some pockets of society that remain irresponsible by flouting restrictions, it does not represent the rest of the population,” Harris Zainul, an analyst from the Institute of Strategic and International.Studies (ISIS) said. In truth, the third COVID wave in Malaysia was caused by the Sabah election that was held in September 2020, but it took 3 months for the government to admit that the election was the main cause, and is accountable for 80% of the total cases.

What’s worse is how some people in power, such as politicians and celebrities still had gatherings and travelled outside in the midst of a pandemic. Instead of receiving punishment for going against the law, they were let off and didn’t face any consequences. While on the contrary, citizens are fined for not wearing their masks correctly, instead of not wearing a mask at all.

As the Malaysian public, we ourselves have our own part to do as well. Though the government is responsible for the majority of the country’s issues, purely blaming them will not change anything. Instead of just criticising our government, we should also use reason and facts to fight what’s right. In short, let us not become a reflection of our government’s actions.

Needless to say, not blaming yourself doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right answer. Inflicting self-blame in small doses does benefit us as it proves that we recognize our own mistakes, learn from them and continue to grow as better people. However, constantly blaming yourself for every little thing can affect you in a negative way. Self-blame is one of the most toxic forms of self-abuse because instead of loving yourself, you continuously beat yourself up for every incident and obstacle you face. Therefore, owning up to your mistakes and taking ownership is totally different from self-blaming and self-pitying.

Dr Steve Maraboli, a speaker and bestselling author once said, “Stop pointing fingers and placing blame on others, your life can only change to the degree that you accept responsibility for it.” In the midst of a conflict, we should remember that both ways of blaming will not benefit anyone at all. Instead, let’s learn how to be self-aware of our own actions and be empathetic towards others. Self-improvement only happens when you start taking responsibility, learn your lessons and stop blaming other people, although at times the latter can be so tempting.

By: Lim Yong Jun


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