Our scapegoats, ourselves

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank

Another fable from Aesop…

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Fortune and the Boy, illustration from 'Baby's Own Aesop', engraved and printed by Edmund Evans, London, published c.1920

Fortune and the Boy, illustration from ‘Baby’s Own Aesop’, engraved and printed by Edmund Evans, London, published c.1920

Fortune and the Boy

A boy was sleeping very close to the edge of a well. He was a quiet and innocent lad, who was not doing anybody any harm.

But Fortune saw him there and she woke him up.

“Please, child, go and sleep somewhere else. If nothing should happen to you, nobody would say that I had taken good care of you. But if you were to fall into the well, everybody would say it was my fault. And I, poor Fortune, have so much blamed on me already.”

The moral: When things go badly, we blame it on luck. But when they go well we take the credit.

*****

Whether we scapegoat luck, God, our spouse, children, parents, or upbringing, rarely do we hear anyone taking the blame when falling short in whatever task or endeavor undertaken. “When you point the finger of blame remember three fingers are pointing back at you” goes the famous phrase often used by athletic coaches. Yet when success is achieved we are more apt to take the credit. A few years ago I noticed that more and more memoirs were on the book tables at Barnes & Noble. Flipping through a few that caught my eye it was easy to see the dominant theme: My life is really screwed up but it’s not my fault.

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” – J.K. Rowling

There does come a time when you have to accept your circumstances and strive to overcome them. You can continue to wallow in the mire and the muck or pull yourself up, wash yourself off and stride forward into life.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

A search on Google for the phrase “personal responsibility” yields 2,240,000 results. It is a concept that appears in Holy Scripture several times. Part of growing up into adulthood is taking responsibility for ourselves. As infants we have none but as we grow into differing stages of childhood more responsibility befalls us.

For each man will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:5)

Within the last hour and as I was writing this I learned about a man that I do not know. A husband and father of two young children, mid 30s, by all accounts successful and affluent with everything to live for. Last night he took his own life just as his father had done when he was a boy. A man raised Catholic who rejected his faith and was I’m told an avowed atheist. I’m not going to point a finger or pass judgment on his faith or lack thereof. Just giving the few facts as I know them.

All I know is that today there is a young boy and his younger sister who ache a profound ache along with their mom, this man’s friends and his relatives. All hurting because whatever the demons that drove him to making this choice…this decision…they were a heavy enough burden for him that he chose not to accept his personal responsibility any more. He chose to no longer provide for his family the responsibilities owed to them through selflessness or self-sacrifice, but to instead disown the greatest gift we receive: Life.

I did not know him but as I sit here typing I’m heartbroken.

And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself. (Job 19:4)

I have made mistakes of all severity and sizes. I have tried to own all of them. I have been low all day because of one I made last night and feeling sorry for myself. As the day passed I’d gone endlessly over what was bothering me. And then I began to take ownership for it and was slowly feeling better.

I made the mistake. Me. No one else. I had a choice and I made the decision. I’ll learn from it.

What lessons are there to learn from this man who determined that he no longer wanted the responsibilities that he had?

Whom did he blame for his perceived misfortune?

Whom could he not see fit to credit for his fortune?

Whom will we blame?

Whom will we credit?

I believe these are important questions.

 

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