This week I learned that the idea of personal responsibility is so part of my personality that I often come off as insensitive and mean.
A friend of mine had surgery recently and she’s not supposed to be lifting anything heavy. My sister and I went over to visit her and help her with things around the house, specifically, getting her daughter’s bath done because she shouldn’t be lifting a two-year-old into a tub. My friend was getting the bath ready and she proceeded to lift the baby into the tub herself at which point my sister stepped in and took over, getting my friend out of the way entirely. Me? Well, I just stood there, being completely useless.
I had to give it some thought later on. Why would I just stand there when my friend clearly needed someone to step in? Why wouldn’t I help out when I KNOW she needs it?
Here’s what I came up with: Personal responsibility.
I believe VERY strongly that we each need to deal with ourselves. We are responsible for our actions and we should act accordingly. Which means that if you make a mistake you need to admit it and learn from it. If you do something you were explicitly warned against, and it turns out as bad as the warning, then that’s your own fault. I’m not responsible to convince you to make good decisions. I can present to you all the relevant information and tell you what I would do, but in the end it’s your own choices that are going to determine the path your life takes.
This is part of the reason I feel like I shouldn’t have children. Because if I tell a kid, “Don’t touch the pan I just took off the stove, it’s still hot and might burn you.” Then the kid goes to touch the pan, I don’t think I would stop them. They’d get a minor burn and I’d be like, “Yeah, see? Told you it was hot. Run your hand under cold water and I’ll get the salve.”
Obviously, I wouldn’t let a baby or very young child touch hot pans or play with knives or climb onto tables even if I did warn them. I’m not talking about actively putting children in life-threatening danger or allowing them to put themselves in a situation that could result in serious injury/death. That’s negligence and I am the responsible one in those situations. But if I tell a 12 year old not to play with scissors and they proceed to play with the scissors and cut themselves then that’s their own fault. I’ll bandage them up and comfort them but I’m not going to sugarcoat the consequences. If they complain about the cut it’s not “Oh, I know it hurts, I’m so sorry you got cut!” It’s gonna be “Well you shouldn’t have played with the scissors. Deal with it.”
We live in a society where nothing is the individual’s fault. Someone is intolerant? It’s society’s fault for institutionalized bigotry. Someone robs a store? Their home life is bad. Someone tries to blow dry their hair in the shower? The company should’ve put a warning label on the box. Drive your car without an oil change for 3 years and it breaks down? Manufacturer should’ve been more clear about that in the manual you didn’t read.
These things are an individual’s fault. They are the actions of one. Problem is that it seems like no one is teaching their children tough-love personal responsibility. When a child acts up it’s not their fault. It must be the tv shows they’re watching, the bad influence of a family member, maybe they need more attention, it might be the video games they play, but whatever it is, it can’t possibly be that they’re just being a little brat and need to learn to control their own emotions. It can’t possibly be that they’re a child and are still learning how to react (and not overreact) to different situations. It can’t be that they have been given everything they ever asked for. It can’t be that. It can’t be their own fault.
Well I’m here to say it is their fault. Yes, children are still learning. They get some leeway. Parents really need to work on teaching them to not blame everything else but themselves for their faults. But adults? I have no mercy. Ignorance only gets you so far. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. It’s not society’s fault you make bad money decisions. It’s not the world’s fault you’re a bad driver. It’s not your parent’s fault that, as a full grown adult, you can’t handle someone having a different opinion. Next time something goes wrong in your life, take a moment to really evaluate what YOU could’ve done differently. If you can change the outcome for the future, do it. If not, then accept that the world is unfair and move on.