You Change First!—What To Do If You’re Caught In The Blame Game

“I would be fine if they would just stop talking to me like that!” Sound familiar?

It’s extremely frustrating when we feel as though someone else won’t allow us to be calm, to be solution focused, or to be the person that we want to be. But often when we feel frustrated that another person’s actions have this kind of influence over us, our response is to try to change them first so that we can then be okay.


Are you getting caught in conflict?

Check out How to Heal Your Marriage (and Nurture Lasting Love)


The scenario I just described is a classic case of being caught up in the blame game. The key to escaping it is anticipating your tendency to fall into it in the first place and make plans for avoiding it before you start a difficult or typically triggering conversation. The dynamic I described is what happens when our brains become “flooded” with stress chemicals which causes our cortex (our thinking brain) to essentially go off line. At that point, our limbic system (our emotional brain) takes over and attempts to “solve” our problems by making us fight, flee, or freeze. This is exactly what occurs each time we find ourselves getting stuck in the kind of unhealthy cycle that occurs when we find ourselves caught in a blaming/reactionary conflict. When this happens, our brain works to distance us from the problem but prevents us from actually doing anything to solve the original problem.

The first step is increasing increase your awareness of when you start to become “flooded” with stress chemicals. What signs occur in your body—i.e. your shoulders tense, your face becomes flush/hot, you clench your fists? When you first start to notice these signs, take a step back, take a deep breath, send up a quick prayer and ask God to help you find solutions that will glorify him, and be the loving person he needs you to be—even in conflict.  Then, focus on something that will help you drain those stress chemicals from your brain and bring your thinking brain back online. In moments such as these I like to reflect on the verse from 2 Timothy: 1-7 which states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When we get caught in the blame game, our focus becomes fixated on changing, fixing, or controlling the other person—to get them to do what we want/need them to do. While this may not be the intention, it is how we tend to operate when we are in a blaming centered conflict. This reminder from 2 Timothy demonstrates to us that we are not capable of, nor is it our responsibility to control or change another person. Our responsibility lies solely in our ability to practice self-control and model the behavior we want to see in the other person. How do you wish the other person would behave?  Make sure you’re doing that first.  If that doesn’t get things back on track, pick a time when you’re not arguing to discuss things you both need to do to make each other feel taken care of when you disagree. 

Be aware of your signs of stress, pray, and breathe. Take a step back until you are able to respond in a calm and solution focused manner. Be a model of the behavior you want from the other person, and proactively discuss ways to better take care of each other when conflict heats things up.


If you would like additional resources to help you stop the blame game in your relationships, visit us online at

3 Simple Ways Stop Blaming And Start Reclaiming Your Power in Grace


In today’s world, placing blame is easier than ever. Outlets such as the news and social media allow us to say “it’s their fault!” without a second thought. Because of this, placing blame on others—or even yourself—is a trap that is all too easy to fall into. However, figuring out “who’s to blame” is not an effective way to heal the hurtful situations in our lives.

In Love and Responsibility, Pope JPII spoke of “responsibility” as a basic and inalienable human freedom that gives us the ability to choose to work for our good and the good of others no matter what.  In a sense, despite the fact that we live in a broken, fallen world, filled with broken, fallen people, no one and nothing can ever take away our ability to respond in godly ways that work for our good and the good of others.  No one can take away this ability to respond to our circumstances UNLESS WE SURRENDER IT OURSELVES and one of the most common ways we do this is by blaming.  When we blame, we turn other people or our circumstances into idols that are more powerful than God’s grace working in us and giving us the ability to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Here are three More2Life Hacks that will help you stop blaming and start reclaiming your power in grace!

1. Don’t Blame Yourself–Overcoming the temptation to blame others isn’t an invitation to start blaming yourself. The first step to reclaiming your power over blaming is to stop trying to figure out whose fault it is and just start solving the problem. Assigning blame–whether to others  or yourself–won’t change reality. Only the next steps you take will.  The only question that matters is,  “What are YOU going to DO about it NOW?”

2. Adopt A Supernatural Perspective–We often blame others when we feel powerless or afraid.  Saying that our circumstances are someone else’s fault allows us to avoid acting in ways that might be necessary, but are scary or unpleasant–especially when we aren’t sure we can do it.  This is the time to remember St Thomas Aquinas’ maxim, “Grace builds on nature.”  Instead of saying, “I CAN’T.”  Remind yourself of St Paul’s words, “I have the strength for everything through Christ who empowers me.” First, ask God what he wants you to do to start making a positive difference in your situation. Second, ask him for the grace to make up for everything you feel you lack. Finally, do the thing that challenges both you and the people around you to be your best selves and let God’s grace flow through your actions.

3. Accept The Invitation–Surrendering the tendency to blame means accepting God’s invitation to grow in strength and wisdom.  When we stop blaming–ourselves or others–we embrace the changes God wants to make in us and through us; changes that WILL lead to us closer to becoming our whole, healed, godly, grace-filled selves and living more abundant lives.  All of God’s children receive this invitation.  Have the courage to accept it and let God make you a witness to the amazing things he can create with imperfect people and imperfect situations

For more information on how to accept and embrace God’s grace in your life, tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, and check out my book Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

Escaping the Blame Game: 5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Power


When things go wrong, we love having someone to blame.  It’s a seductive game that makes us think that blaming others will give us control, but in reality, as long as we play the blame game–whether serving or being served–we have no power to change anything.  We may manage to convince ourselves that nothing is our fault, but it also means that we won’t be able to do anything to respond to our problems because taking action would be akin to taking back the blame.

“Who?  Me?”

Blame is an early fruit of Original Sin.  In the Garden of Eden, when God sees Adam eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam responds that “the woman made me do it!” and in turn, Eve exclaims, “the serpent made me do it” (Gen 3:12-14). In this exchange we see the alienation and the powerless that comes from blame as well as how blame sacrifices love on the altar of pride.  Rather than loving each other and working for each other’s good as they did before the Fall, our post-lapsarian parents can hardly wait for buses to be invented so that they can throw each other under one!

Love, and Responsibility

A running theme in Pope St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body is that the keys to authentic happiness and healthy relationships are love and responsibility.  Love is the commitment to working for the good of others while responsibility represents “the ability to respond” effectively to the challenges we face.  Blame undermines love by making us treat persons as problems–things to be fixed, not people to be loved and helped to grow.  Simultaneously, blame undermines responsibility by paralyzing us.  We tell ourselves we didn’t do it, so we “shouldn’t” have to do anything about it.  But if the people we want to blame don’t accept that blame, we’re left staring at the mess feeling self-righteous…and stuck.  The more addicted to blame we are, the more we surrender our ability to be authentically loving and effectively responsible which, ultimately,  steals our capacity for both joy and happiness.

Accepting responsibility is not the same thing as accepting blame.  Many of my clients struggle with this idea, but the truth is that having the power to respond to a problem says nothing about who caused it.  When we embrace love and responsibility instead of blame, we stop worrying who caused the problem and begin focusing on what can be done to solve the problem.

5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Power

So, if blame disempowers us, how can we reclaim our power over the challenges and problems we face?

1.  Identify the problem to be solved.  

Stop asking who caused the mess.  Even if you could solve this mystery, the mess would still remain.  In fact, while you are arguing about who’s at fault, the mess is just running all over the floor and getting harder to clean up–so to speak.  Instead,  simply state the nature of the mess that has to be addressed.

2.  Brainstorm solutions.

Ask  what needs to be done to solve the problem.  Collaborate with the people around you to identify the steps that would need to be taken to address the issue.

3.  Take the Lead

Don’t wait for others to respond.  Begin gathering the resources necessary to solve the problem and roll up your sleeves to address it.  Don’t worry if “it’s not fair.”  You’ll feel more powerful if you “do” instead of “debate.”

4.  Enlist Support

While its good to take the lead, don’t let others off the hook.  You might not be concerned with who is at fault, but you need to be deeply concerned with asserting that everyone has the ability to help you respond to the issue.  Insist that everyone who is touched by the problem join you in responding to the problem.

5.  Set Limits As Necessary

If someone who is affected by the problem refuses to join you in responding to it and attempts to leave you holding the bag, consider what boundaries you might need to set on the relationship or consequence you might need to apply to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of by that person in the future.  Charity may require you to bear this current offence patiently, but it doesn’t require you to commit to living the life of a doormat.  The “personalisitic norm” (i.e. the moral principle stating that human beings are persons–not objects– who have a God-given right to be treated with love and never used) tells us that we have a right to limit our relationships to people who are committed to working for our good and who want us to work for theirs.

Aiding and Abetting?

But doesn’t this approach just let people off the hook? How will guilty parties ever learn if we don’t force them to accept their rightful blame?

The 5 Step Process to Beating Blame  I’ve outlined above allows the guilty person to experience their faults as a call to love and responsibility.  Think of all the times Jesus confronted the sinner with the words, “I do not condemn you” (John 8:10). By following Jesus’ example, we enable the person who caused the problem to feel supported not shamed and because of this, we increase the likelihood that they will willingly join in cleaning up the mess and learn from their mistakes.  Those who refuse to respond to this call to love and responsibility will either be compelled to change or will alienate themselves from their relationship with us because of the boundaries and consequences we impose after-the-fact.  People with good hearts will respond generously and gratefully to this approach.  By contrast, people who are intent on habitually finding other people to clean up their messes for them will eventually be sidelined, their impact on our lives mitigated by the limits we set to protect ourselves from their attempts to use us.  Chronic offenders will either learn or be let go, but they won’t ever be let off the hook.

The next time you’re tempted to play the blame game, focus on applying these 5 Steps to Beating Blame and enjoy the increasing sense of competence and confidence you feel as a result.  To learn more about leaving behind the blame game and setting effective boundaries with the users in your life, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!   Making Peace with Difficult People.  or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how our telecounseling practice can help you stop being taken advantage of.