I needed to learn the secrets of living beyond blame when my life was suddenly defined by the consequences of a decision I made.
Eight and a half years ago I woke in the middle of the night with a niggling sense of uncertainty. Unable to settle I slunk out of bed and sat in a dark, newly decorated nursery. The faint orange glow of a street light edged around the curtains of our box room, like an artificial sunrise. I sat in silence, surrounded by the lingering aroma of freshly covered paint and sense of new beginnings. Blanketed by the stillness of the midnight hour I stared at the cot opposite as it lay waiting for an inhabitant. My baby had kicked a Hot Chocolate resting on my bump a couple of hours earlier but now it lay silent and a seed of fear began to swell.
That night I chose not to seek medical advice until the morning. The midwife I called later reassured me, as did hearing my baby’s heart beat. Further delays ensued when I arrived on the antenatal ward until I gave birth to my firstborn son by caesarian just after 2pm. The surgeon had declared she was 90% sure our baby would be fine but he managed to shun the odds and was born limp and not breathing.
I have revisited that night many times and the truth afforded to me by hindsight is that I made a mistake. When I couldn’t feel my baby move I should have gone to the hospital. But there is another truth. I do not know to what extent I am to blame for the outcome.
A Blame Culture
When I qualified as a nurse it was fashionable to talk about the hospital not having a blame culture. Yet nursing today includes documenting and treating patients in such a way that anticipates litigation. It seems our society’s appetite for blame is insatiable. Have you tripped on a pavement? The adverts scream at you, “Someone must be to blame”. This together with our own perception that nothing bad should happen to us creates a heady cocktail of liability.
Now don’t get me wrong I am all for complaining and seeing improvements in practice. I have a whole folder in my filing cabinet marked Current Complaints’. But today each of the complaints I pursue are linked to making things better for the future not apportioning blame. I now realise that any perceived justice doesn’t change my feelings of bitterness. Only I can deal with emotions cultivated by a situation.
There have been other instances, and there will be in the future, when a choice I made had dire consequences. Today, I live differently.
Simple truths that help to Live Beyond Blame
- I can only make a decision based on the information I have at the time. Retrospect and hindsight only happen after.
- I make mistakes and by definition these are not intentional.
- Everyone else makes mistakes and we can all learn from them.
- The consequence of a mistake does not indicate the severity of the error.
- Bad things happen even when no-one is to blame
- A mistake is different to a sin because sin is intentional
Revisiting that night in the nursery is painful. I may never know the implications of the decision I made. I can choose to blame myself and others, allowing a cancerous anger to grow within me, or I can choose forgiveness. I made a choice to forgive myself and afford the same courtesy to the medical staff who cared for my son and me.
Recently I was sending JJ (youngest son) to the stairs for not doing something he was told. Just before he sat down he spun round, looked me in the eyes and flippantly quipped,
“No-one is perfect mummy.”
He’s right. No-one is perfect and we don’t live in a perfect world.
I want to clarify that I don’t think it is wrong to fight for compensation. I don’t think it is wrong to recognise mistakes and seek change. But I do think it is healthy to live beyond blame. Although suing can dramatically improve your standard of living it may also be a hinderance to emotional wellbeing.
And God’s culpability in all of this? Well that’s another Blog entirely.
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