Skip to content

Responsibility Lives Beyond Guilt and Blame

(Dharma Center Monthly Mindfulness Tip – February 2022)

The pandemic continues. Recession and war is looming. Inflation is rising. Supply chain issues delay products. Climate change is becoming more and more apparent. On top of the crush of the world’s ills we feel our personal struggles. It’s enough to make anyone want to scream. When we finally do find someone to scream at, we discover it doesn’t really do anything to fix the problem.

Yet we’ve been conditioned to seek blame as a way to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes it even works, for a moment. There’s a release that happens, just for a second when we point the finger at someone else.  This transitory distraction from our pain can become addictive. We tumble down a rabbit hole (often with lots of company) placing blame.

As our mind opens, we begin to see how blaming others doesn’t get us anywhere. Then the guilt comes. We shift the blame from others to ourselves. Same rabbit hole, with a slightly different view.

The way out is to recognize the difference between guilt/blame and responsibility.

Responsibility lives beyond guilt and blame. While guilt and blame live in the mind, responsibility is based in action. When we accept responsibility, we stop thinking about the issue we are facing in abstract terms and consider what can be done.

It’s easy to get twisted back into the blame game, so to avoid that, it’s useful to think in terms of personal responsibility. Ask: “What can I do, right now?”

For many of the world’s problems, most of us can do only small acts. Do them selflessly. Don’t expect others to do anything, and don’t expect yourself to be perfect – that’s another trap door into the world of blame and guilt. Also don’t expect any rewards. Simply act in ways that help because you know it’s the right thing to do.

When it comes to a personal struggle, break it down into pieces.

When we feel overwhelmed, it’s often because we are trying to fit an entire watermelon into our mouth all at once. Cut it open first, and then dig in, one small bite at a time. You may find these small tasks are sweet and easy to chew, like the inside of a watermelon.

The hardest bites are the ones we cannot take – sometimes the problems we face are beyond our control. In those cases, we return to our basic practice of tending our mind. We meditate and we practice mindfulness. We accept personal responsibility by consciously making the decision to look at what is blocking our innate joy. As the attachment comes into view, we choose if we’re ready to let go or if we will continue to carry its weight. Making this decision with awareness releases our energy and allows us to focus on the actions we can take.

The Path is not about sitting in spaced-out bliss. It’s about embodying the pure and perfect Light you are and acting from that spaceless space. Walking the Path is accepting our personal responsibility as a Being of Light in the endless dance of life.


To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List and the Dharma Center Mailing list.

My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please help pay for this website by contributing any amount through, or visit my Support page to learn more ways you can help keep the work going.


Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness