A question I hear frequently is, who’s to blame for this mess we are in today? I wonder if we will ever know the answer.

When the blame goes all the way to the top, the easy answer is the President. He is the symbol of leadership for the country and is a pretty big target.

But many of the issues we face began long before the election of 2016. Can we really blame him for things that began before he became President or even ran for office? Perhaps when we ask the wrong questions, we get inappropriate answers.

Many years ago a psychologist named Albert Ellis introduced a system of therapy which came to be called rational-emotive treatment or therapy. The “simple” explanation for most of our mental health issues could be summed up: we become emotionally uncomfortable when we think irrational thoughts. There are many seeds of truth in his system.

Many of us can become uncomfortable if we think some people don’t “like” us. That may hurt us emotionally but it does result from an irrational thought: everyone has to like me! When you ask, why? An irrational “fill in the blank” may remain. Of course, mature people recognize that not everyone is going to like us. While it is nice to get along with most of the people with whom we deal, not everyone is going to “like” us (or the things we choose to put on social media). When I give up the irrationality of believing I can please everyone, I can begin to feel better and to think more accurately.

Thinking clearly is a step not only to human maturity but also to understanding our identity. Am I who other people think I am or does my identity come from another source? Too many of us are troubled by the opinions of others. An accusation needs to be judged by the reality of what I know. If someone calls me by a name, and it is a false description, I need to be comfortable with the truth rather than what might be said. “Name calling” and “blame fixing” have found too much fertile soil in our conversations. Our emotionality has to be measured against rational thinking.

We have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves and to laugh with each other. Television and the internet have produced too many talking heads that appeal to irrational fears rather than examining uncomfortable truths.

We are tempted to find blame rather than to seek truth. We may destroy something in our rage, but we may lose something more valuable in the process. Let us be careful not to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.

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Dr. James E. Kilgore retired as President of the International Family Foundation and lives in Canton. His most recent book, LIVING WITHOUT LIMITS, was published in late 2019 and is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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