Taking Responsibility

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I’m on two weeks leave, so in between satisfying my voracious appetite for reading and Heineken, I have time to watch Dr. Phil.

There was a woman on the show who claims her childhood ordeals as an excuse for her current bad behavior, which included cheating on her husband at least 5 times.

I did not have a particularly great childhood, but even the bad experiences I had made me who I am today. Some of what I am today is good, some bad. I hope that most is good. While I have in the past thought  a lot about my childhood, and still think about it some today, I cannot remember at any time using my childhood as an excuse for anything that I have done wrong. I’m not saying that my childhood didn’t have some negative effect on the ways that I’ve acted in the past (and probably in the future), but it doesn’t excuse my own bad choices. Afterall, where does it end? Hasn’t everyone had some bad experiences as a child? And it’s kind of like my argument against  Darwinism: Darwinists point to specific traits and give reasons for those traits. For instance, a giraffe has a long neck so that it can eat the buds atop a tree. Really? So any animal without a long neck can’t eat the buds atop a tree? There are many very great people who had “bad” childhoods. I think about many authors (I like to read about authors’ histories’; they give me insight as to what motivated them) who had tyrannical fathers, or hovering mothers, or who grew up without their biological parents or were adopted.  Winston Churchill had almost no relationship with his father.

When we are mature enough to make the excuse that our past “caused” our bad actions, paradoxically we condemn ourselves. For at that moment, we admit we did wrong, and we even suppose to know the cause.

We can never be free of our own choices. No matter our blessings or curses. We cannot from one side of our mouth parrot Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, but from the other side utter, “bad things happened to me, so I do bad things.”

Ultimately, nothing of value comes without a price. When we decide that we are responsible for every one of our intentional actions, it at once both horrible and beautiful–and supremely empowering.

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One thought on “Taking Responsibility

    Amos Volante said:
    May 27, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I think this post would eliminate many sentencing arguments by criminal defendants.

    As well as many irrational women who inevitably wind up 60, pudgy, single, and in possession of numerous cats.

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