“If she didn’t want that to happen, she shouldn’t have dressed that way.”
“Don’t blame the victim!”
Is it ever possible for two things to be true at the same time?
I’ve noticed something. People who tend to become more successful over time take responsibility for their results, regardless of whether or not the outcome was their fault.
We’re big on finding fault in our culture. If something goes wrong at work, we always want to know, “Who dropped the ball?!” If a couple breaks up, we always want to know why and who did it.
The thing about finding fault is that it looks everywhere except at ourselves.
Consider this: you’re walking down a dark alley alone in the middle of the night. You pull out your wallet because you’re curious how much money you have. While you’re thumbing through your bills, someone steps out of the shadows, punches you in the nose, snatches your wallet, and runs off. By the time you look up, they’re gone.
Whose fault was it that you were robbed? That’s easy. It’s the thief, 100%. No question about it. It is absolutely wrong to steal. In a just society, I should be able to go anywhere I want with no fear of being robbed.
We’ve found fault. Call the police. We could stop there.
Or we could ask how you contributed to the situation.
Was it wise to walk alone in that area of town? Why were you in a dark alley? Was it prudent to display your money?
If we stop at fault, the situation will repeat itself. If we never ask those hard questions about how we contributed to the situation, we’ll repeat the same actions again. We’re likely to experience the same outcome again in the future.
This might seem obvious if we’re mugged. But we often overlook this in business, especially creative businesses.
When I launched the School of Kingdom Writers five years ago, I took hundreds of fundraising meetings (literally). Anyone who would give me 45 minutes, I would sit down with them, explain what we were doing and ask them to support it financially. Some people would give and others wouldn’t.
When I achieved a negative outcome, I could blame it on the person I was meeting. They were a jerk. They weren’t listening. They’re not a generous person. They just don’t get it. They seemed like they were having a bad day. They’re not a good steward of their money. They didn’t trust me due to some prejudice.
Chances are that some combination of those factors was true, and that’s why they didn’t give.
After that meeting, I had a choice. I could analyze their words and body language, find what’s at fault, and blame them. That would certainly make me feel better.
Or I could ask myself the hard questions. How did I contribute to the outcome? Where did I lose their attention? What was unclear in my presentation that might have disconnected them from the cause? Did I give them the right expectation ahead of the meeting? How could I better appeal to someone with a similar perspective in the future?
You see, fault wouldn’t help me. How they responded was truly not my fault. I gave them an opportunity to give to something really cool, they said no. That’s between them and God. It was my job to ask, it was their job to respond. Their response was 100% their responsibility.
In order to do that many meetings and endure that much rejection, I had to know that was true. That’s how I went to sleep at night and kept getting up to do it again and again. “It’s my job to ask, their response is up to them,” was my mantra some days.
But while that was true and I could console myself with that, if that’s all I did, I wouldn’t have improved. I wouldn’t have increased my effectiveness.
In order to improve, I had to own my outcomes so that I could learn from them.
In business and ministry, there are times when I have been severely mistreated. Somebody did something that was just wrong, plain and simple. If someone didn’t plan ahead and can’t pay the bill, that’s not your fault, no matter how much they try to make it so. If someone goes berserk, that’s not your fault, no matter how many nasty things they say about you.
I can accept that it’s not my fault and walk away from it, but I can also ask, “What did I do to contribute to that situation?” Or even, “How could I have identified that risk in advance and avoided the confrontation all together?”
This is one of the reasons I always say, “I’m getting the results that I deserve.”
It’s not to suggest that there aren’t any factors outside of my control. I’m not saying that everything is my fault.
But I do have to recognize that if I want different outcomes in the future, it’s up to me to apply different inputs.
I can either wait for the world to change around me until I get lucky. Or I can recognize that I’m the only person in the world who is an actor in all of my own outcomes. If I want different results, I’m the only person I can control to achieve them.
Two things can be true at the same time. I can recognize that I am not at fault, and that will help me recover. However, I can simultaneously recognize that I contributed to every situation I’m a part of, and there’s a better way to do it in the future.
Practicing finding fault will only make you better at finding fault in the future.
Owning our outcomes puts us in a position to learn, and it’s what successful people do.
Sometimes we all need a little kick in the pants. I help Christian authors up their game so that you can reach the people God has called you to.
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