On Fault And Blame And Apologies

Our back yard is inclined upwards so the dogs in the yard behind us get a clear shot of our house when they’re outside. Our back yard neighbors got a new dog a few months ago who IS A BARKER. Now, this is no big deal for us because we are always awake when he’s barking. Even when it’s 3:30am, or 4:30am.

How is it possible that we are ALWAYS awake on the mornings he’s barking early? Well, because he’s barking at us.

He sees our lights on and then he barks. Now, he’s not always outside when we are up in the mornings, but he’s still young and his owners let him out early in the mornings as they’re – I’m assuming – house breaking him. And if he sees we’re up and about in our house? HE BARKS LOUDLY AND CONSISTENTLY.

Sometimes my dog has to go out and we keep our dog on a leash because he chases those dogs and tears up his feet on our rocky yard, so I’m outside with my leashed dog when he is barking at us allowing me to hear the owners come out at 4:30am and whisper/yell, “Zeus! Come inside! Stop barking!”

And of course Zeus has neighbors on either side of his house during all of this as well. So me being up early – which makes him bark – means his owners and both sets of their neighbors are all inconvenienced by the barking. And while I’m not sure any of them even realize the connection between his barking and my early mornings…I FEEL TERRIBLE.

Like…this morning I turned on ONLY THE MICROWAVE LIGHT when making my coffee in an effort to keep him from noticing I was awake, if he was outside. But then I turned on the light in my bedroom and BARK! BARK! BARK!

Eventually they get him back inside when he starts his fits – it’s not an all-day scenario, but it’s still loud and consistent barking for anywhere from 2-10 minutes before the sun comes up and I see it as ALL MY FAULT.

I’m not friends with the owners or their neighbors on Facebook, but just to clear my conscious a few weeks ago I posted a guilt-ridden status about how bad I feel that my early-to-rise lifestyle is affecting the people behind us so much. And do you know the most common response?

“Why do you feel bad? They shouldn’t let their dog out so much if he barks all the time.”

*mind blown*

I mean, I don’t think of it like that because to me there are also plenty of times he’s NOT outside, but it never occurred to me that the excessive pre-sunrise barking dog WOULD BE THE FAULT OF THE OWNERS. I was taking all of the blame myself and feeling bad every time it happened…which was several mornings a week.

Now…let’s change the setting to recently when Nikki was doing something and Donnie was trying to explain to her how to do it the right way and she kept apologizing and finally I said, “You don’t have to apologize! He’s just teaching you how to do it. It’s not your fault.”

To which she replied, “Yeah it is, because I didn’t know how to do it and now he’s having to take time to correct me.”

He and I were both a little delayed in our response because, I mean, she was RIGHT. And then I remembered something I periodically try to recall myself and I said, “Nikki – I apologize too much as well. Just because something is technically your ‘fault’ does not mean you have to apologize. If you can, find a way to thank the other person instead. Like just say, ‘Thank you for showing me how to do this, Dad. I appreciate it.'”

Both of these incidents have had me thinking a lot about fault and blame. I mean, my Try Gratitude Instead Of Apologies method worked for Nikki’s situation, but it wouldn’t work for mine. In both situations we felt the fault for the inconvenience of other people. But, neither one is really something we need or should apologize for. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to counsel myself in those situations.

The “Thank you” v/s “I’m Sorry” is a really good move that I wish I remembered more often. But how do I deal with the part of me that really wants to go apologize to everyone on the street behind me for disturbing Zeus? I mean, he is barking at me, but is that really the fault I should be carrying? If any of those people have problems with the dogs barking, is it really ME they’re going to come hunt down for correction? NO. So why do I feel SO TERRIBLE.

Just like Nikki that night feeling SO TERRIBLE she had been doing something wrong and needed to bother her Dad for instruction.

I know this is very common for women, it’s almost a cliche to talk about women who apologize too much and men who don’t apologize enough. But I don’t feel like it’s an instinct that is 100% wrong. I think it’s important to be aware of how your actions affect the lives of other people, because not recognizing that is just a few steps away from being self-absorbed and no one likes that.

But I also think there are times when “fault” warrants apology and other times it does not. Nikki was able to shift her perspective to gratitude but I can’t really do that in my situation. Do I just need to try to absolve myself of the fault in the first place? Even though I feel pangs of guilt when I flip on a light and Zeus starts barking at me at 4am? (It’s maybe 2-3 times a week this happens.) In those moments where I can’t transfer my guilt to gratitude, how do I shake it off?

It’s still something I’m working through in my head and thought I’d toss out these two different types of scenarios to see if anyone else can relate to those strange blame scenarios where you feel like something is your fault but it’s not really something you can/should/need to apologize for. Can things be our fault but not warrant an apology? Is that just something I need to accept? Yes. Sometimes people get annoyed/inconvenienced/bothered by something that can directly be blamed on me – but that doesn’t mean I’m required to apologize, right? Especially when there’s someone who shoulders MORE of the actual blame I can absolve myself. Maybe I just don’t need to apologize when gratitude is a better response. Or maybe it’s just that blame and fault should be fleeting emotions and once I’ve decided there’s no action needed on my part, I should reflect on it and let it go.

Yes. Because I’ve proven to be very good at letting go of negative emotions in the past. 😉

7 thoughts on “On Fault And Blame And Apologies”

  1. Just one remark, and it might be because english is not my native language….
    When you say fault, dont you mean you are the reason something happens? As in, fault suggest blame, while reason Just indicates a causal relationship between your Actions and those of others? No blame, no guild. No need to do anything about it unless you are annoyed by the sequence of events and you van change it by doing something different?

  2. Oh this is SO interesting.

    We got new neighbors a year or so ago and the father drives a limo so coming and going at all hours. This has made my dogs bonkers. Not once, not for one minute, did I think this was my neighbors’ fault. It’s a little annoying, but it is what it is.

    They are at their house, doing what they need and want to do. I work on quickly and efficiently quieting the dogs. I also don’t feel terrible about the dogs barking, they are dogs.

  3. For what it’s worth, we have barkers in the neighborhood and I ALWAYS think it’s the owners fault for leaving them outside all the damn time when we have other kids/dogs/delivery people in the neighborhood living their lives. It never once occurred to me that it would be anybody else’s “fault” besides the dog owners. If you have a barking dog, it is your responsibility to bring it back inside the house. I have dogs and if they’re outside, generally I’m outside. I don’t leave them outside for hours on their own to get bored and barky. Apparently I harbor more irritation at my neighbors than I thought. 🙂

  4. I don’t think it’s your fault that their dog barks when you turn on your inside light. It’s training him to understand the boundaries he needs to protect, and it’s hard and sometimes doesn’t work but it’s on them. If you were walking your dog in your yard with a flashlight or outside light, within feet of their fence? Maybe you could share the blame. But not in your house, for sure!

  5. This is just what I came here to say! Can you try reframing it from “fault” to a more neutral causal relationship? “Fault” seems to imply that you did something wrong, which you absolutely did not. The dog responds to a light turning on by barking, is all. I don’t think there is any blame or fault here.

    Another way to look at it is to think about the neutral causal relationship between the owners’ actions and the dog’s barking.Their choice to leave him outside in the back yard alone is of course a factor here. If his owners want to minimize the barking, there are probably a few options they could try: taking him out just to do his business and bringing him right back in, taking him out to the front yard instead of the back, various training approaches that help dogs reduce their alarm-bark response, etc.

    On another note, I love the reframing of “thank you” in N’s situation. I need to remember to use that more often myself!

  6. I could not figure out this post.
    Your use of the word fault in such a way had me absolutely confused about the whole situation described.
    I read this thing over and over and could not tie it into the Kim I know.
    That is until I read Janine’s thought/comment which, despite ESL, is perfectly described.
    Fault, when read or heard by me implies blame every time.
    As she describes, there is no fault which means there’s neither blame nor guilt.

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