We live in a society that does not want to accept responsibility for bad choices. If a person smokes and gets cancer, it’s the tobacco industry’s fault. If a person shoots someone, it’s the gun manufacturer’s fault. If a person drives drunk, it’s the bartender’s fault. If a child misbehaves, it’s the music industry’s fault. Should the tobacco industry, gun manufacturers, bartenders, music industry, and others act more responsibly? Yes! Are they to blame for the choices we make? No!
This “blaming others for our actions” mentality influences almost every aspect of our lives. We want to blame our “lot in life” on our parents, our neighborhood, the times we live in, our lack of good fortune or fate. However, many people born into poverty have risen above it and many with health problems have accomplished much. Oprah Winfrey, Sam Walton, Andrew Carnegie, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Helen Keller are just a few that come to mind. While it’s true that environment and heredity can limit our choices in life, they can’t determine what kind of person we choose to be. Our actions determine that.
Albert Einstein said, “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.”
Psychology may teach us there are some subconscious motives for the conscious things we do but there comes a time when we can no longer blame a repressed sex drive or how we were potty trained for being a jerk. Ultimately, we determine what kind of person we want to be.
This proclivity to blame others for our poor choices is not new. It’s been going on since the time of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3 we see that when God asked Adam why he disobeyed by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed Eve. Then Eve blamed the serpent. Adam went so far as to say to God, “It’s the woman, YOU gave me!” Now it was God’s fault. Everyone wanted to blame somebody else. And we’ve been blaming others for what we do ever since.
Consider this… Blaming others or blaming circumstances never improves a situation. If anything, it only makes it worse. However, taking responsibility for our poor choices helps us make better and wiser choices in the future.
Suggestions for practicing this choice…
- Don’t be afraid to admit when you have blown it. Believe it or not, people respect those who take responsibility for their actions. When we admit mistakes others are more likely to believe us about other things we do because our word has meaning.
- Memorize these phrases and use them often: “I’m sorry.” “I made a mistake.” “Please accept my apology.”
- Stop making excuses for yourself like…I wasn’t told, I never had an opportunity, everybody is doing it, it’s not my fault, they don’t like me, wah, wah, wah, wah. Grow up!
- When problems come resist the temptation to find someone to blame. Instead ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” Or “How could this have been prevented?” Learning from a situation can help avoid repeating the same mistakes.
- Think about this Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”