The wind is howling and our windows shaking as I sit and write this column. We have jumped from polar vortex to dangerously high winds that seem to be knocking power out of many Midwestern communities. The power of Mother Nature is awesome. As long as the roof doesn’t blow off and the winds rip my laptop from my hands, I should be able to finish this, the ninth column of 2019.
Before I embark on composing No. 9, allow me to say thank you to the hundreds of you who have written, called, emailed or tweeted your condolences on the loss of our beloved black lab, Maddie. Arlene and I are truly touched and thankful for your kind words. I also mentioned my friend Ted’s dog, Riley. Riley joined Maddie in Heaven the day I filed my column. Riley and Maddie will be sorely missed. A new twitter friend reminded me that of course dogs go to Heaven. Dog spelled backward is God!
Onward and upward.
I overheard a conversation this week between two women while in my local grocery store. I am guessing they were in their mid-60s — give or take a few years. My ears perked up when I heard one of the women say, “I hate it that I am this way. It’s my father’s fault, you know.” Circumstances are rarely fair, but we must adjust and keep moving forward. Hearing an adult blaming her father for the way she is, is silly.
When do we begin taking personal responsibility for our actions?
There is a growing trend in society to play and enjoy the roll of the victim. I can fill this page with examples, but none are more striking than the ongoing saga of actor Jussie Smollett. Smollett has been charged with conceiving, financing, producing, directing and starring in his very own personal action/drama of a racial and homophobic attack of an innocent and seemingly helpless victim. His riveting saga was originally billed as a true story expressing the worst of our nation but is now being exposed as a work of fiction.
The Smollett case is not the only example but the most recent and highly profiled picture of a fast growing and popular trend in our nation. There is profit and benefit in being a victim. “Look at me. It’s not my fault! Give me sympathy. Look at what these bad people have done to me!”
In the past, our leaders and heroes took personal responsibility for their lives, their agenda and mission. They didn’t blame others but took positive steps to achieve their goals, dreams and desires. However, there has been a seismic shift that is changing society. Playing the victim card is in vogue. If you can pull it off, it is effective. In the view of some, Smollett’s only crime is that he wasn’t careful enough to pull it off.
As a child, I would complain about school, friends or life in general and my dad would always listen and ask, “What can you do to change it?” He’d place the responsibility squarely on my shoulders. “If it is to be, it’s up to me” was a philosophy drilled into my head. Blaming others gives us a feeling of helplessness. Taking responsibility forces us to be the solution.
Taking personal responsibility is taking ownership of your actions and the consequences. Accepting responsibility for actions and failures helps a child to build self-respect and an understanding that there are choices we make and consequences to those choices.
We all know life isn’t fair. We learn that from a very early age but what comes from this unfortunate reality is all-important. Do we learn to take responsibility for overcoming life’s unfairness or do we blame others and life in general for our circumstances? Taking responsibility puts us on the road to success, while blaming buries us in self-pity and offers no path forward. Again, I ask … What are we teaching our children?
A victim is usually seen as powerless. Poor Jussie — all he could do was go on TV and cry at his mistreatment. What else could he do? He was pretending to be the victim. Believing you are a victim drains your power and binds your hands and feet.
Taking responsibility gives you the power to change — to take action. It doesn’t mean you will always succeed but it gives you the opportunity. Taking responsibility and action gives you a fighting chance. Taking responsibility gives you hope and creates an optimistic outlook. Optimism encourages and promotes success.
Every community has an overwhelming need for adult mentors. I started a drum & bugle corps in Kankakee County with the sole purpose of mentoring our youth. When I have a free day, I substitute teach. Our future depends upon raising the next generation of people to be self-reliant and optimistic. The entertainment industry and the break-down of the traditional family unit are working against these kids. They need willing mentors to stand alongside them and nurture a successful attitude. They need you. They need me. They need us.