It's 95% Your Fault
Principles are not something that you realize or simply believe – you decide them. A principle that I have decided to act in accordance with is that everyone is 95% responsible for every single thing that they do. I done this because I identified a flaw in myself that I wanted to correct. The flaw was that I was assigning a different level of credit or blame on people’s actions to suit my existing opinion of them. What that meant in practice was that if someone that I cared about done something wrong, I made excuses for them. For example, if a friend treated another person badly, I would think that is was not completely their fault. I would orchestrate my thoughts to say, they only done that because they had been treated badly in the past – therefore the blame was, perhaps, 30% theirs and the other 70% was made up of various other factors. Then the opposite would also happen. When someone, usually unknown to me, did something that I was not capable of doing, I would orchestrate my thoughts to diminish their achievement if I did not think well of them. I would think things along the lines of, “that is easy for them, they are extremely wealthy”. This meant that I was assigning, perhaps, 50% of the credit to them and the other 50% went to various other factors. This would happen to varying degrees, giving people anywhere between 100% and 0% credit or blame to suit my feelings at the time.
This got me thinking about how much credit/blame people deserve for their actions. I wrestled with the idea for a while before I decided that there probably is no concrete answer that everyone will agree with. I realized that the only thing that mattered was consistently and that I needed to decide how much credit/blame I should consistently give to people. To do this, I thought about how much credit or blame I want to place on myself for things that I do, whether good or bad. My personal preference is that the number is close to 100% but could never get all the way there. I eventually settled on 95%. I discussed the topic with a few people, trying to figure out what percentage of blame/credit they would like to consistently assign people. Some did not want to have a consistent number, seemingly happy to continue to change this depending on their feelings. Maybe they do not see this as the flaw that I do. Others that did see the merits of the idea, offered a variety of numbers. I found anything under 50% to be troubling, especially when talking about blame. When someone commits a crime for example, I appreciate that there will be circumstances that led to them making the decision to do it – that is the 5% for me, but I am not happy to assign 49% or less of the responsibility with the person that committed the crime. I think if you believe that people are less than 50% responsible for their actions, then it must become difficult to punish them, and by that logic also difficult to congratulate or reward good actions.
It is clearly not important that people agree with me on exactly where I drew this line, but I hope that you see the merits on drawing a line for yourself. If you do, put some thought into it and then start to treat people according to where you drew this line. I believe that it is the only way to treat people fairly and hopefully that is what we all want.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome feedback and further conversation on the topic. You can reach out to me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org