The Lost Art of Taking Responsibility For Our Actions
THREE SIMPLE WORDS
I was wrong. Three simple words; three simple syllables, and yet they are so hard for many to say. I was wrong. Total elapsed time when saying those three words….at the most two seconds. Why is this such a difficult thing to say?
I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago while watching a clip of Lance Armstrong on Oprah. I was fascinated watching this once popular sporting icon skate around the issue of personal responsibility. Yes, he admitted to taking steroids to improve his physical performance, but he choked on the words “I was wrong,” instead saying that everyone does it and he was just part of the crowd.
And of course I was reminded of Barry Bonds, President Clinton, and the other political, sports, and entertainment celebrities who have been caught red-handed in their indiscretions and yet seem to be incapable of saying those three simple words….I was wrong.
We shake our heads, and we discuss them over the water cooler at work, and they become our favorite topic until a new one comes along, and we find a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that the mighty can fall, and thank God we aren’t like that.
Oh really? We aren’t like that?
THINK BACK TO CHILDHOOD
How many of us, as children, lied to escape punishment? I am willing to bet most of us can say yes, most definitely, I lied so mom and dad would not be unhappy with me.
If you want to watch this type of responsibility-ducking, become a teacher. I don’t have the time to list the ingenious lies that were told to me during my eighteen years in a classroom. Some students, even when faced with irrefutable proof of their guilt, would lie to avoid saying those three little words….I was wrong.
If you are a parent I know you have seen it. Your little darling, angel-faced daughter or son, the apple of your eye and the future of your family name, can spin a tall tale that would make any Irishman blush, all to avoid the consequences of their actions.
But we all grow out of that, right?
I don’t believe so.
ADULTHOOD AND THE SHIFTING OF BLAME
Forget about the Sammy Sosa’s of the world for a moment and try to think of someone you know, and adult, who does not take responsibility and blame when they are wrong. Can you think of any?
My favorites, and I have known quite a few over the years, are the ones who, when confronted with evidence that they are guilty, will say, “well yes, I did that, but……” and then start making excuses for their behavior. Well yes, I did that, but it was my understanding from your memo that it was okay to take the petty cash if there was an emergency. Yes, I did that, and I’m sorry, but your instructions weren’t very clear. Yes, I did that, but if John hadn’t encouraged me to do it I never would have done it. Yes, I did it, but…….
Is there that much shame in admitting we are wrong that some people simply cannot say the words? Is it that big a blow to their ego that maybe they convince themselves they are incapable of being wrong?
I am reminded of a phrase we used to say when I was younger. We referred to some people as having “Little Man’s Syndrome.” Not the most politically correct phrase in today’s world, but it bears mentioning for the purpose of this article. It referred to those blustery individuals who were always strutting about like a peacock on a stage, their bright colors overwhelming anyone in their vicinity. They were never wrong and they knew everything, and God bless you if you disagreed with them.
I hate to tell you, but the last person who was perfect found himself nailed to a cross, and I have no desire to experience that punishment. Hell, folks, I’ve been wrong more times than I have been right, or so it seems as I gaze over the landscape of my life. As a recovering alcoholic I stand before you and say that I have hurt others in the past and I was dead wrong in doing so. It would be so easy to blame it all on my disease. The AMA recognizes it as a disease so why not use it for my benefit. Yes, I was wrong, but…..
But nothing! Not once when I was drinking did someone pour a drink down my throat. Not once was I forced to do wrong to others, and not once was I forced to cause emotional harm to others. That was my doing and I was wrong, and all the excuses in the world will not change that fact.
Accept the fact that none of us are perfect
SO YOU SEE
Yes, Lance Armstrong was wrong. Yes, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were wrong. They will eventually be punished, either by the courts of law or the courts of public opinion, and then we will move on as a society until the next celebrity disappoints us.
Still, I can’t help but think of the old saying that if you live in a glass house then you might want to think twice before you start tossing stones around. We have all been wrong, and we will all be wrong again, and we might want to remember that the next time we point the finger of blame at others, and act so shocked when one of our heroes is less than the god we made them out to be.
They are easy targets, the politicians and entertainers, and perhaps their fall from grace bothers us more because for whatever reason we held them to higher standards than we hold ourselves, and really, how wrong is that?
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)