Over the course of the past several months, a few experiences made me want to discuss personal responsibility. Some of this is going to be satirical, some theological, some philosophical; all of it will be real to me, and I hope you enjoy the “diversity” in this post. For my non-Christian readers, don’t run away so fast – there are some lessons here I think all can enjoy.
It all started in October at a church conference. A leader of the LDS Church, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, gave a talk discussing personal responsibility and submitted we should quickly consider our role in situations we experience. He began by discussing the night Christ fellowshipped with his disciples for the last time:
It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the evening before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them.
The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?”
Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?”
In a time (today) where pride is often in the way of responsibility and blame is easier than personal reflection, most of us (Christian or not) can learn something quite valuable from this part of Christian history and the lesson it teaches.
While I believe in Christ – that He is man’s Savior – I fully recognize the belief isn’t shared by several of my readers. I am going to address this story and the lesson we can all learn (including me) in a fashion hopefully all people will have an open mind to, without dismissing it due to the faith-based foundation it carries.
Here we have a leader who freely allows His followers to come and go with no requirement, no coercion, no force of government to stay. He teaches and doesn’t rule. He offers spiritual guidance, not earthly gain. Whether the reader believes His words or not, his followers apparently do… to the point of leaving their earthly possessions behind to follow Him, learn from Him and fellowship with Him.
Imagine that amount of dedication to a cause, doctrine, and man. Imagine you are so sure of what you’re being told that in your heart you are willing to leave all that you have known behind, be chastised and ridiculed publicly, and still follow.
Now, imagine the man you had that much faith in says, “Hey, one of the dozen of you are going to betray me.”
(On a personal note: I have been truly betrayed one time in my life. It hurt so terribly bad; it took quite some time for me to come to grips with the fact it had been done. I say that to say betrayal is no small matter to me.)
Now back to the story at hand.
So here we are: a teacher teaching a foreign doctrine that is feasted upon by twelve disciples who are willing to leave everything they have in the belief that following His teachings will bring eternal exaltation. Now he is saying that one of the twelve of them will turn their back on him in the worst way imaginable.
Place yourself in this position. How easy would it be to take pride in your faithfulness and hope in what this teacher has taught to brush aside the idea it may be you who actually betrays Him? Yet, in this situation, each of these disciples personally reflects, is concerned with their dedication, and questions their own loyalty.
“Is it I?”
Not, “Surely it’s not me… which one of these rascals is going to do this?”
How meek. How humble. How “poor in spirit.” How much we could learn from this lesson, regardless of our theological doctrine. How different would the life we live and relationships we have be if instead of dismissing the possibility of us being wrong, we look at ourselves first in disagreements we have with our significant other, disputes with our employers, differences with our children.
“Where am I wrong in this situation?”
“What if I’m completely misguided in my position?”
“What have I done to contribute to this problem?”
What a phenomenal shift in relationship dynamics we could all experience.
Fast forward about 1,985 years!
Not long after this talk, I read a blog by Matt Walsh, a cynical and sarcastic blogger who addresses everything from politics to relationships. He calls them thoughts on “absolute truths (and alpaca grooming tips)”. Yes, much of his writings are amusing; all of them are very logical and thought provoking. The blog I’m discussing here, Ladies – it’s time to take responsibility for your failed relationships, is very crass – but something to think about.
The article was prompted by a woman who emailed him in reference to a previous article of his about men and their need to man up.
The lady emailed him, very bluntly, writing all about how men are to blame for her relationship failures and how the last “first date” she had didn’t even offer to give her a ride home in the morning.
WAIT WHAT?! Yeah, read that one again!
Matt so wonderfully responded to her via his article. What he says isn’t as profound as the fact that he said what so many of us would be thinking had we read any similar letter addressed to us. Her real problem is obvious.
What does he say that I’m sure this lady’s parents, family and friends probably wouldn’t say to her? “Sweetie, you’re creating your own world full of non-virtuous, disrespectful, childish, video-game obsessed men by the choices you make. By the way, that mouth on you isn’t doing you any favors.”
Seriously, the lady rants for quite some time with foul language, assumptions and accusations that ensure any reader the woman has no concept of what her choices have done to her “love” life.
But her love life isn’t the point right now… though I would encourage you to read the article (for a head-shaking moment if nothing else).
The point is she is representative of so many people I have come across over the past few years. Not necessarily with people’s love-life problems, per sé, but in general it’s the fact many people seem to think that their problems are typically due to the actions of others.
Sad; truly very sad. I say sad because people that refuse to self-reflect are ones that continue making choices that bring their life to the same conclusions that are self defeating. It’s almost an addiction to severe emotional self-destruction; the first sign of the addiction is denial. You do something, the results make you hurt/mad/sad, you blame others for those feelings and that outcome, then turn around and do the same thing again.
I want to take a minute to clarify that I did specifically say, “I have come across [these attitudes] over the past several years.” It’s not that I just now started to encounter these things; it’s that before these past “few years” I was the same type of person. I didn’t notice it in me or others – it was a subconscious way of life. So, as much as I’m talking, I’m talking to myself – a reminder of what can happen to me if I’m not vigilant of my own flaws.
Here’s the point: for us as individuals and as participants in relationships (and society) to continuously seek self improvement, we have to be willing to nakedly look at our self. Our flaws. Our faults. In every situation we happen to experience, regardless of success or failure of outcome, we need to consider the true impact we’ve had on the situation.
Don’t over overcompensate for pride in success; don’t ignore reality to save face in failure.
The fact of the matter is that we can accuse others, we can blame a ubiquitous adversary, we can even blame “luck” or “fortune”, but the reality is that we can only control our own actions, behaviors and attitudes. To assume luck, fortune or others can be changed easier than we can change ourselves is about as “non-virtuous, disrespectful (to ourselves) and childish” as it gets.
Let us all take a hint from one of the masters of music, Eric Clapton: Before we accuse others, let us look at ourselves.