I was a pretty good kid growing up. I listened to my parents most of the time. But, there was one day when I was 11 years old and I must’ve done something really wrong (not sure what it was). My mother sat me down and asked me, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Because Linda told me to.”
Then she said something I have not forgotten to this day. She asked, “Well, if Linda told you to jump off of a bridge – would you do it?”
Of course the answer was “no.”
She continued, “We each have to make our own decisions in this life. Sure, as a child you listen to advice from your parents your teachers, and other authority figures. But, even then, when it comes right down to it, you are the one responsible for the choices you make and the outcome of those choices.”
These days we’re too quick to shirk responsibility for our actions (or inactions) – so someone or something else can be held responsible if things go south. Giving up responsibility means relinquishing control – a trend that has been creeping into our world for a while now in a broad-spectrum way from little choices to big ones.
We see this lack of accountability everywhere.
If my daughter is doing poorly in fifth grade, it’s the teacher’s fault. It’s certainly not because I never help her with her homework or that I’m so disconnected, I don’t even know what she’s learning in school. If my teenage son missed his curfew and got into a fight at 2 a.m, it’s the police’s fault. They should have seen those kids breaking curfew and sent them home. If I didn’t get that raise I so desperately need, it’s my boss’ fault. Never mind that I missed my last three project deadlines and then turned in substandard work when I finally did finish them. Oh, and just discount that I was late for work five times last month.
But those are all relatively small issues in the scheme of things. My more serious questions surround the bigger issues facing our nation and our world: mass murders, hate crimes, racial and social strife. In the wake of recent events, President Obama spoke about those who committed these violent acts and said, “That’s not who we are.” But, it seems like it’s becoming exactly who we are.
We need to look at our own individual responsibility for the way our world is right now and be aware of the degree of control over the evil in our world that many of us are choosing to relinquish. We’re looking at political pundits to fix our lives. Dallas police chief, David Brown cited many of the issues we expect police to deal with – drug abuse, mental health, racial discord. We’re looking at leaders of groups to tell us what to do, when to do it, how to act, how to think. Of course government, police and leaders of civic groups play an integral role in shaping our present and our future. But, we cannot strictly place the burden on them. We seem to be looking everywhere but where we should be looking: in the mirror.
My mother was right. We’re responsible for the choices we make and for the outcome of those choices. And we all need to work together to fix what is broken. We need to talk to each other, listen to each other, learn from each other and dare to trust each other. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I, for one, don’t want to be someone who does nothing.
Judy Sloss is a Mt. Airy resident and regular contributor to the Local