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Don't Blame Others If You Refuse to Help Them Learn
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Don't Blame Others If You Refuse to Help Them Learn

Patrick Allan, Gawker Media

Photo by Franz Venhaus .

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations , Lifehacker's weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

This week's selection comes from my favorite stoic, Marcus Aurelius. He suggests you hold off on blaming people who make mistakes, especially if you're not willing to guide them:

"If he is going wrong, teach him kindly and show him what he has failed to see. If you can't do that, blame yourself - or perhaps not even yourself."

Meditations, 10.4

Here's another translation:

"If someone is slipping up, kindly correct them and point out what they missed. But if you can't, blame yourself-or no one."

Meditations, 10.4

What It Means

People make mistakes. When they do make a mistake, and you feel the need to point it out, at least do them the kindness of showing them how to avoid it next time. But if you point fingers and refuse to teach, the blame is on you. That's your failure, not theirs, because you're choosing to neglect an opportunity to do good. Of course, if you can't help them learn, no one is to blame. The mistake they made could have easily been made by you.

What to Take From It

Blame is good for no one. It makes the blamed feel disheartened and unwilling to try again, it makes the blamer feel self-righteous and free of fault, and it cultivates a culture of blame shifting for everyone else. Its a selfish act of self-preservation designed to lower people's opinions of someone else so that you might look better in comparison. In an environment where learning often comes with trial and error, which is most work environments, the feeling of failure is often punishment enough. There's no need to point fingers and amplify it. Besides, when you work on a team, one person's failure is everyone's.

It's still okay to point out someone's missteps. After all, many people don't even realize they're making mistakes until someone does so, and they need to be told so they can get better. But if you're going to highlight someone's faults, you should be willing to show them how to avoid them in the future. Guidance helps them learn and encourages them to try again, and through teaching, you further your own understanding of the subject matter and solidify your position as a positive, useful member of the team. So don't blame-teach. If you can't teach because you are also learning, know your place and just worry about yourself.

You can read Meditations in its entirety for free here .

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