Category Archives: blame

Certainty Cuts off Growth

The poet Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass  “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes.”
I always thought this line was an open ended invitation to growth, a path that recognizes new ways of thinking about and doing things to incorporate learning. Whitman’s line runs along in my mind with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s from his essay Self-Reliance “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
So I’m impressed when someone says “I used to think this way, but the more I learn, the more I reallize there are many ways to look at something…and I’ve changed my mind about my original position.”
Some people can’t do that. They are stuck with an original position, often formed to protect a life’s narrative in which others are to blame for their shortcomings or ills. Parents get caught in this trap, as do spouses, bosses, children or anyone who is snared in another’s web of certainty.
When we start with ” I know…” instead of ” I believe…”, we shut outself off from new input. Someone who knows needs no more information. I believe people who ‘know’ have a difficult time maintaining friendships, love relationships and an ability to deal with a universe where change is the only constant.
I believe knowing you’re right means you’re stuck.

The Ripple Effect


I was walking my dog a few days ago when I saw a tall blonde woman walking towards me with small slow steps. Holding a cane in one hand, and the leash of her large dog in the other, she seemed to be a paradox – a image of fashion, beauty, youth and vigor, yet she was taking small steps with a cane. 
“He’s friendly”, she called out reassuringly. I loosened the hold on my dog’s leash. The dogs began their get acquainted ritual and we chatted a bit. Her name is Lois. I learned that she was recovering from a broken back injury, sustained when she fell down a flight of hardwood stairs. I asked how it happened. “There was some mud on my husband’s shoe after he walked the dog. It blended into the dark wood. He didn’t see it, I didn’t see it, and I slipped,” she explained.

“It’s no one’s fault. It just happened. I feel so lucky that it wasn’t worse,” Lois continued with a wide smile. “I used to run with the dog, but he’s learned to walk slowly with me. After two years of surgeries and rehab, I’m walking again. How great is that?”

We exchanged names and I said I’d look forward to seeing her again on the walking path. I haven’t seen her again, but I hope I do. I want to thank her for reminding me of something I know, but to which I pay too little attention. 

It’s not what happens to us, but what we tell ourselves about what happens to us, that makes all the difference. I’ll try to remember that the next time I get irritated about something that wouldn’t even register on Lois’ scale.