Saturday, February 27th, 2021

R Shopper Columns




While it is true that we get angry when someone accuses us of a wrong that we did not commit, it is also true that we get just as angry over being accused of a wrong we did commit!

'When a man is wrong and won't admit it, he always gets angry.' (Haliburton) Guilt is often the trigger for this anger.

Guilt can be a problem for many of us. While some of us need to acquire a healthy guilt about lying, cheating, vandalizing, stealing, betraying others and for the destructive things we do, others of us need to let go of what we can call 'unhealthy guilt.' Unhealthy guilt can cause us to sabotage our successes and damage our self-worth.

Guilt can be an ally or it can be a whip used to inflict
pain upon others or upon ourselves. By misusing guilt,
we may not be appreciating what it can do for us.

One of the ways we misused guilt is when we shift the ownership of the wrong away from ourselves to our partner. This shift is sometimes called the blame game. We all know people, who have such a low self-esteem, they can never admit to their being wrong. It is always the other person's fault.

I think one of the reasons many of us cannot be responsible for our actions is because there seems to be some confusion as what it means to be 'responsible.' Some of us think 'responsible' means 'blame.'

Is there a difference between being responsible and blame? What words come to mind when you think of 'blame?' Words that come to mind are accuse, judgment, condemn, criticize, denounce, knock, and censure. Blame seems to focus more on who we are than what we did. It feels like an attack on self rather on the problem to be solved. Also it feels more like our partner is dumping on us.

The word 'responsible' has to do with ownership, answerable, accountable, maturity, and becoming solution orientated. It focuses more on the behavior that needs to be corrected and the end result. Being responsible carries the idea that we are confident in ourselves enough to be accountable for our actions and make the necessary changes in our behavior. Our growth as a mature person is inhibited when we cannot be responsible for what we do and say.

We don't change or correct the problem because we are stuck defending our fragile self-esteem and being right. The healthy view is the belief that it is not about who is right but what is right.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700