Accept Blame when You Deserve It

Things do go wrong sometimes. There are times when it's accidental. There are times when it's somebody else's fault. But at the times when you know you are at fault for the problem, the mature and responsible thing to do is stand up and own up to the mistake, accept the consequences, and be part of the solution to the problem resulting from your mistake. If you do not accept blame it will only get worse for you as your life goes on, and in many cases gets worse.


  1. Step up and confess as soon as you realize what went wrong. Waiting to see how things shake out is a bad idea. As soon as a situation starts going south, step up and point out where the problem started - with you, yourself. The sooner the problem is identified, the sooner a resolution is possible, and that minimizes consequences.
  2. Don't skate around the issue. This means you should state the problem directly, clearly and simply rather than beating around the bush or attempting to confuse the issue in order to make you look less responsible. Again, when problems crop up, the quickest way to the solution is simple, direct identification of the problem's origin and details. Trying to skate around an issue is just frustrating, and in the end the problem takes much longer to deal with and becomes more complicated the longer it goes on.
  3. Don't try to shift even a part of the blame. This doesn't mean that you should accept blame that you don't deserve. Sometimes it is more than one persons fault. If you have a boss, spouse, or teacher that are understanding it can help you to acknowledge when you have made a mistake (in some cases may share partial responsibility). But saying things like, "Well, if he/she had or hadn't done this then I wouldn't have done that or this wouldn't have happened." It is unjustifiable. Instead, say, "I am so sorry for this. I had no idea that what I did could cause this type of problem. How can I help fix it?"
  4. Realize that the truth will be discovered eventually. It's been said, and is generally true, that "the truth is just a shortcut to what's going to happen anyway." If you're around when the truth does come out, and you haven't confessed your part in the problem, your credibility for all future situations will be compromised terribly. When others realize that you had the last clear chance to step up and own that mistake, but instead you allowed them to share blame with you, they will not appreciate it at all. When your boss realizes that you allowed others to bear responsibility for your mistake, your days will be numbered, or at the very least, your prospects for advancement will be curtailed significantly.
  5. Trust the other party to help. Hopefully, you have a decent parent, spouse or manager; or if you're in school, your teacher is fair. Assuming your boss is a good boss (or whatever authority figure is in play) is the smartest assumption to make in this case. The reality is that the person who has authority over you can protect you better than anyone else, but if you don't admit you caused a problem, there will be no shield when the truth eventually comes out. If it's a working situation, and you go to your boss as soon as you realize what's happened, s/he can help you more than you may know. Trusting your boss to help you out of a jam can actually pay big dividends later - by confessing to this problem, you've just shown your boss that if a problem is really your responsibility, you'll step up and say so. When problems crop up later and evidence points to you, if you say, "No, that wasn't me," your boss will believe you - s/he knows that you are mature enough to admit your mistakes, because you've done so in the past.
  6. Help solve the problem. Once you've caused a problem, don't wait to be forced or pressured to remedy it - volunteer. Don't ask if you can help - ask how you can help. Watch carefully as those who help the most do their work, and take note of the way they resolve the issue. File this information in your memory and have it handy for later use.
  7. Explain yourself. Once the recovery is underway, you should try to explain what your thought process was, so that your boss, significant other or parent can understand what led you to the point where things went pear-shaped. Many times, once you've explained your thinking, others will say, "Well, that does make sense in a way, however..." By doing this, you are allowing them to help correct the way you think about things, and helping yourself for the future.
    • Be careful not to justify the mistake or behavior. Look at the difference in these two statements: "I'm sorry I yelled at you, but I haven't been sleeping well." (justification) versus "I've been on edge because I haven't been getting much sleep lately, but it was wrong of me to yell at you and I'm sorry." Learn how to apologize properly.
  8. Accept consequences. There may be some - that's why it's scary to step forward and admit responsibility. But shouldering blame early and helping in the resolution of the problem will make any punishment or penance less harsh. Take your punishment as courageously as possible, and when it's done, it's really over - you'll have learned your lesson and maintained personal integrity in the process.
  9. Recover gracefully. It isn't mistakes that should define us - it's recovery. Most clients, when asked, will say that their most trusted contractors and vendors have not been perfect, but that when mistakes were made, the contractor made it up to them by admitting their responsibility and offering either a steep discount or replacement free of charge, or offered discounts on future jobs in exchange for the inconvenience caused by their error. It's not the mistake - it's the way you rebound from it that matters to most people.
  10. Hold your head up and move on. Nobody's perfect. We all make mistakes. If we're smart, we learn from those mistakes and take note so that we don't repeat them. Learning experiences that are the most painful are also often the most valuable. Remember that your mistake was just that - it wasn't intentional, you didn't set out to deliberately cause harm or screw someone else up. And as soon as you realized that it was you who caused the problem, you stepped in, ready to help dig everyone out of the hole you put them in. You can hold your head up and feel good knowing that you did your best to help everyone recover with a minimum of pain.


  • You don't have to make a big deal out of some things. Small mistakes are easily handled by saying, "Oh. That was my bad. I'm sorry." Then the other party can say, "Oh. Well, that's okay. But in the future, here's how I want you to do that, all right?" If you make a big, hysterical scene, then it becomes all about calming you down and reassuring you, and that takes time away from solving the problem.
  • Don't assume that your boss, parent, spouse, or teacher will think the worst of you if you make a mistake. Owning up to mistakes early will earn you respect from them, it won't make them think less of you. It's practically guaranteed that they've made a mistake or two along the way.
  • Humans make mistakes. Its better to accept it than ignore it because of your ego. Mistakes help us to grow and learn. If we do not make mistakes then there is no growing, learning, or healing.


  • Be prepared to accept negative consequences. Being mature enough to own up means being mature enough to accept punishment if the mistake is bad enough to warrant it. Still, it's better to accept punishment for a mistake that was able to be quickly corrected than it is to accept punishment for something that went so upside down that repercussions will be felt for years - your boss will not appreciate that, so confessing and handling problems before they get to that point is the far better option.
  • It may not be safe to admit mistakes to an abusive person who is anyone who yells excessively or physically attacks you. If you are with an abusive person get help from a trusted source and leave the situation immediately if possible.

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