This is a slight departure from my normal blog. It appeared on the opinion page of The South Missourian News and The Villager Journal on June 30, and I have received several e-mails to have it posted here, so here goes...
When did the virtue of Personal Responsibility become a piece of garbage easily tossed away into the nearest trash receptacle? Are parents no longer teaching their children the importance of owning up to their actions, and the consequences they bring?
Growing up on a grimy street in New York City, my brother and I knew there would be heck to pay if we did something stupid - if we made a bad choice. Our parents told us, our grandparents told us, our teachers reminded us to think before we acted, our pastor told us about accepting the consequences of our choices, and so on and so on.
Every day we make choices, both simple and complex. But when did we stop thinking before choosing? How many people do you know who blame past events for their present choices? Who refuse to see their own will at play, instead blaming the will of another who did something to them years ago?
Or perhaps they blame "Society" or a bad upbringing - heaven forbid they look in a mirror or recognize that the hand causing the harm is in reality attached to their arm.
Our world is suffering from the lack of personal responsibility people in today's society are expressing - this refusal to acknowledge their role in the destruction of our planet is hampering any efforts to reverse that damage. An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour are great wake up calls that there's a problem - but if no one is willing to fess up to their part of the cause, is there really any way to fix it - or are we already doomed?
Look at the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. People are so quickly pointing fingers this way and that, they aren't taking the time to look at the facts and see where the real trouble began: Whose choice was it not to fix the emergency valve on the well? Whose choice was it to reduce governmental oversight of offshore oil drilling and relax safety measures?
But that leads to tough questions and unfavorable truths in our age of "He said, she said." I miss the days of Harry Truman, when "the buck stopped here" and it really meant something. Nowadays, that buck just gets blown from hand to hand like a piece of paper in a tornado funnel, endlessly swirling in a multitude of directions with no idea where it's going to land.
So, what do I mean by accepting personal responsibility? Accepting personal responsibility includes:
* Acknowledging that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.
* Accepting that you are responsible for what you choose to feel or think.
* Accepting that you choose the direction for your life.
* Accepting that you cannot blame others for the choices you have made.
* Pointing the finger of responsibility back to yourself and away from others when you are discussing the consequences of your actions.
* Realizing that you determine your feelings about any events or actions addressed to you, no matter how negative they seem.
* Not feeling sorry for the "bum deal" you have been handed but taking hold of your life and giving it direction and reason.
* Letting go of blame and anger toward those in your past who did the best they could, given the limitations of their knowledge, background and awareness.
Accepting personal responsibility is not a burden, it is a blessing. Look for the good in your life everyday, appreciate it, and take responsibility by making the most of what you have. Happiness is a choice, just like misery is; we all have the responsibility to make the right choices. We owe it to ourselves to do so.