Thursday, February 20, 2014
Neat package. Too neat. I was bothered by the notion that a bad experience in the past is the cause of all a person's present problems. I also worry about just how much blaming something in the past keeps people stuck and feeling like victims.
An acquaintance shared with me that at the age of 25 she is leaving her second marriage. I ask, "At what point did you know that husband No. 1 was violent and husband No. 2 was on drugs?"
"I suppose before I married" was her surprisingly frank answer. "My parents were divorced, and my brother died," she explains. "I was upset."
Her answer to being "upset" was to walk through the first two doors available. Now she is single with three children from two attempts to bury her emotional pain.
The modern-day "out" or excuse for such behaviours is generally psychological: "Considering my hurts, disappointments and traumas, I can't be responsible for the havoc I wreak in the lives of others or the mess I've made of my own life." --- Puhleeese... ---
Does anyone really believe that only those people graced with great genetics, perfect parentage and ideal social conditions can - and will - behave with character, courage and conscience? Does anyone really believe that laziness and gutlessness are products only of some form of psychoneurosis? Nonsense.
Call me insensitive, but I believe that even with bad stuff in your past, you have choices. Everyone must overcome something. That simply is life. Of course, the typical rejoinder is "How dare you blame the victim for his unhappiness?" But there is a big difference between blaming the victim and trying to get across the fact that it is within his power to gather courage and move on. It seems nobody is acknowledged to have free will or responsibility any more; we have become a society of excuses and victims. Victimization is today's promised land of absolution from personal responsibility.
A comic strip shows two vagrants sitting on a wall and conversing. One says to the other, "Do you believe in fate?" The other replies, "Sure. I'd hate to think I turned out like this because of something I had control over!"
After listening to people's stories over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the path to healthy relationships and self-respect starts with the decision to do the right thing.
Another friend related her story to me about her repeated childhood molestations by both a stranger and a family friend, her parents' divorce when she was six, and the poverty that kept her from attending university. "Under these conditions I could have a become a 'victim,' " she concluded. "But I chose to change my circumstances through hard work and perseverance.
"While some of my decisions were indirectly related to what happened in my childhood, I'm still responsible for the choices I made. Once we decide to make the best of whatever our situation is, we will be better people, and the world will be a better place in which to live."
Acknowledging that you are responsible for messing up your own life is admittedly very upsetting.
But it is that very acknowledgment that gives you the power to change things.
The young son of a close friend was on drugs for eight years. "I took anything," he admitted. Why? "To have fun with my friends. It was a blast. I just liked it."
Today he is drug-free. "I had some long-range goals, and they just weren't panning out," he told me. "I tried changing jobs, friends, love relationships, and still wasn't getting anywhere. Then I realized that I was the constant in the equation, and the constant was that I was using drugs."
He decided to confront a bad habit and kick it. He wasn't diseased. He wasn't a victim.
Uncertainty. Loss. Aloneness. Conflict. Sometimes life seems a like a huge maze, an obstacle course, a trial by fire, even a bad joke with you as the subject. I don't believe for a minute that everything that happens to you is your doing or your fault. But I do believe that the ultimate quality of your life and your happiness is determined by your courageous and ethical choices and your overall attitude.
You may get some bad bricks and weak steel, but you are still the general contractor. What do you want to do? Fake it? Bemoan it? Change the plans? Wait for better parts?
As a friend said to me very recently, "The more time we spend blaming our circumstances on others, the more time we waste, because while we were blaming, we could've been doing."
God bless y'all - (thank you to LAURA SCHLESSINGER for the original content)