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The Missing Letter

July 27, 2010

Shifting From Blaming Toward Sanity and Well-being

I’m so funny sometimes…funny bordering on the ridiculous.  When I pay attention to the silly side of me, I can teach myself important lessons.

Recently, I sent a letter to a colleague and told her to expect it.  About a week and a half later, she called.

“Teressa, did you have a chance to send that information to me?”

“Yes.  I sent it the same day we spoke.  You didn’t receive it?”

“No.  And, I asked my husband, as well.  He hasn’t seen it either.”

We both wondered out loud, “Where is it?  Why didn’t it arrive?”

She wondered if there was a new mail carrier on her route who delivered it to the wrong address.  I wondered if “those people” at the post office damaged or lost it.  Or, maybe my mailman was on vacation and another unknown carrier picked it up mishandled it.  I mean surely, I did everything right so it couldn’t be me.  It had to be them.  They were the ones making the error.

Well, yesterday the letter arrive in my afternoon mail.  It was stamped ‘Returned for Postage Due’.  I didn’t put a stamp on it.  No postage, no delivery.

Do you notice how in my story about why the letter never reached its destination I was blameless.  The other party –the mail carrier, the post office – was the guilty one.  They must have mishandled my mail.  I couldn’t possibly have made a mistake.  How mistaken I was.  I had to laugh when the unstamped letter showed up.

I bet you don’t have to search too long or hard to find a similar tale from your life.  I happens to all of us.

This little vignette reminded me of how easily I can concoct a story to explain what’s happening, even when my story contains not an ounce of truth.  For some reason, we find it easier to make others responsible for what happens in our lives, especially when the outcome doesn’t match our expectations and self-image.

If you and I did more to shift this one pattern – finger pointing and assigning blame – we would contribute a lot to our own sanity and well-being.  Finger pointing and blaming waste time and energy.  Neither moves us closer to the result we want.  Neither helped me find the letter, nor insure its delivery to my colleague.

Shifting responsibility is never part of any solution.  It only maintains the cycle of current conditions – like being stuck in a story.  In worst-case scenarios, it exacerbates tension and conflict.

What are the silly little details of your life teaching you?  I invite you to share your teaching moments with the LIES That Limit™ community in a Guest Blog.

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