Japanese culture of not blaming others

Recently, this has got me thinking quite a lot. When something goes wrong I am used to seeing myself and my Indian friends blaming others for it. “I forgot to bring my underwear to the trip. It is because you made me hurry so much”, or, “We missed the last bus because you ate dinner so slow”, or, “Corona is spreading so much because the Government is not able to manage things properly” We just completely ignore thinking about what we should have done so that things would have gone right. Instead, we are keen more on what the other party involved should have done such that things would have gone right.

I think this is quite a natural instinct to feel angry at others when something goes wrong and find their faults. Therefore, when I came to Japan and saw how Japanese people handle such situations, I was shocked!

For example, whenever I made some mistake at work and was too embarrassed to admit it, I was so shocked to see my Japanese colleagues saying sorry so many times instead of me. I thought, why are they saying sorry, when I am the one who made the mistake. Internally, I felt kind of relieved too when I heard their sorry because, I was glad they are not blaming me for the mistake, or maybe they are the ones who are to blame at first place for the mistake. But now, I understand better. They said sorry, maybe because they saw their fault somehow that the mistake was made: Maybe they didn’t give me instructions properly, or maybe they felt somehow that they could have done something more so that such a mistake could be avoided.

When I came across this saying in Japanese few months ago “Hito no sei ni shinai (人のせいにしない)” which means “not blaming others” I was mesmerised by it. It connected so many dots in my mind, so many actions of Japanese people.

When I was discussing this topic with my Japanese colleague during lunch time, he said, “If we blame others, then we cannot improve ourselves”. That was a small moment of enlightening for me. When we don’t blame others and rather think on what we should have done, we are finding a way for similar thing not to happen in the future: Maybe, I should pack my bag the previous night of the trip next time, or maybe I should plan a trip better next time so that I don’t have to face so much difficulties in trip again next time, or maybe I should improve my work skills so as not to make the same mistake again, or maybe I should wear masks in public so that I can help prevent spread of corona by at least a little bit.

It is a wonderful thing embedded in Japanese society. It is not easy to take the blame on yourself.

To those who know about Machine Learning in Computer Science, might know that neural networks train themselves by adjusting their weights in the network. Initially, they also make a lot of mistakes but learning from their mistakes they adjust themselves and slowly start giving correct answers. It is so much similar to the topic of this article! Even human created neural networks have this idea embedded in them.

Although, recognizing our own faults when something goes wrong seems to be a great thing, I also want to mention a negative aspect of this thing: It can be mentally burdening.

Although it is very hard, I think if we incorporate this habit more in our minds, we will grow a lot as a person.


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