“Who Do You Blame?”

IMG_0247I had just tuned in to a report on the terrorist attack in Tunis on NPR two days ago when it was time for the obligatory man-in-the-street interview (or in this case, woman-in-the-street). “Who do you blame?” the interviewer asked the Tunisian woman. It might have even been the very first question she asked. Her next question was “Should the government have done more [to prevent the attack]? I turned the radio off at that point and finished my commute in silence pondering the depth of our human desire to assign blame.

Of course, in this terrorist attack as in others, there are actual perpetrators (shooters) and victims (people killed or injured), but they are usually obvious. When she asked, “Who do you blame?” the interviewer wasn’t looking for the names of the shooters, was she? She wasn’t asking, “Who committed this crime?” No, she was tapping into our universal desire to see ourselves as victims, to find fault in others, and to avoid our responsibility to act for ourselves.

Then yesterday I saw this cartoon in my local paper


and this article in the Wall Street Journal


which only reinforced my thinking of the day before about how pervasive blame and fault finding are in our society and in our human nature. We frequently look to blame others for everything wrong in our lives, often when we played a big part in creating our own problems. As Proverbs (19:3) says, People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD

Now there will be people in your life that hurt you. You may well be a victim of someone else’s evil, like the people in Tunis. Even so, the question of “Who do I blame?” will not be helpful because it keeps the focus off of the only thing you have control over – yourself. Blame is a way of avoiding taking action. A more helpful question is “What am I going to do?”

As you know healthcare is in turmoil.  The operating environment is very difficult for legacy healthcare providers and systems, and as a country, we’re still getting sicker!  We have two  national crises, health and healthcare.  Naturally, “who is to blame” is being asked a lot regarding health and healthcare these days. For example, everyone wants to know who we can blame for:
– the obesity epidemic?
– the diabetes epidemic?
– “food deserts” in inner cities?
– unaffordably high prices of healthcare?
– the problem of people who still don’t have insurance?
– the dysfunctional healthcare “system”?
– the lack of insurance coverage for this or that particular service?

And a lot of actual blaming is happening as well.  You yourself may have some firm ideas about who deserves blame for these problems.

None of this is as helpful as the questions, “What am I going to do about my health?” and, for those of us in leadership positions in the healthcare industry, “What am I going to do at my organization to address these issues?”

Even blaming yourself can prevent positive change. So let go of the blame and start asking, “What am I going to do?” Then do it!

He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey.
He who blames himself is halfway there.
He who blames no one has arrived.

– Chinese proverb


  1. Dexter Simanton says:

    Peter, while I appreciate all your posts, I find this one particularly spot on. I think the “blame game” is part of our fallen nature and an effective tool for Satan to disrupt our redemptive relationship with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for your consistently thoughtful posts.

  2. Jeff Wood says:

    I’m a blamer … but it’s my mother’s fault.

  3. Michael Shapiro MD says:

    Hi Pete
    In the ER and urgent care, I often see doctors, and non-physician practitioners who blame patients for coming in for what they perceive as inappropriate reasons. Often they waste their limited energy and time gnashing their teeth and agonizing over the situation rather than working to find an appropriate solution. I try to remind them (and to remember, myself) to avoid this type of reaction.

    • Peter Weiss says:

      Hi Mike,
      It’s nice to hear from you! I hope you are doing well.
      Yes, I agree that this is a common problem for many patients. It’s just human nature, and I have the same tendency. It’s good to have friends that can redirect us away from blame to focus on action steps.