A few years ago, I gave the introductory lecture-discussion for the drug and alcohol unit of a local hospital. Each group of 20-30 people met for three weeks. Ages ranged from 16-60.
I began each session with the same question.
“What is the most important lesson you have learned or, are in the process of learning for your life?” (Before continuing, take a guess at their responses.)
Almost to a person, they gave the same answer. “I am responsible for my choices. No one else.”
They echoed the song by the late George Jones. “I’m living and dying by the choices I make / No longer will I blame my parents, or siblings, or teachers, or mate, or drugs, or alcohol / I, and I alone, am responsible for what I do, or do not, who I am, or who I am not.”
What a joy to hear a 16-year-old make that confession. All excuses stripped away. No more manipulations. No more conning people to play my games.
Much of the media presents an opposite message. Here are some brief samples from country-western songs: “should I come home or should I go crazy...?” “If I can’t have you, I don’t know what I will do...” “You made me love you, I didn’t want to do it...” “I’ve got you. I don’t need anything at all...” “Don’t make me let you go...” “It’s not your fault you’re depressed, and don’t feel good all the time...” “If it weren’t for you, my life would be perfect...”
And here comes the double-whammy: “I’m drinking my baby good-bye.” He admits what he’s doing, and does it anyway.
I realized recently that much popular music consists of love songs, and much country music contains loss-of-love songs.
Question: What’s wrong with these country-western songs? Answer: You are my problem. If it weren’t for you, my life would achieve greatness. Such behavior gives unhealthy power to the other, while ignoring our own healthy power.
To put it another way: From the womb to the tomb, from the cradle to the grave, we make choices. Some good, some bad, but they are our choices. Of course, we can allow others to make our choices.
We may choose security and certainty, rules and regulations to determine our pathway. In a sense, choosing these restrictions makes life easier, at least for a while. Yet they also open the door to bullying, and dictators, political and religious, to take over our thinking and behavior. However, freedom, true freedom, requires responsibility and accountability.
I heard a politician, also a religious leader, proclaim, “It’s OK to exploit and abuse and pollute the earth. Jesus is coming soon.” What a pathetic, stupid cop-out. Some people who claim to know the Bible apparently never listen to Jesus, when he said “I don’t even know when the end will come.”
He urges us to be prepared – now. If we fail, we will spend our lifetime blaming others, rationalizing, and making excuses. By making the right choices, we become caring, concerned caretakers of the good earth, which is fit for the purpose for which God intended.
True liberty is the freedom, not to do what we want, when we want, where we want, but the freedom to act responsibly.
The following is my personal script of responsible living: Every day, I ask myself the following question: What will I do to help prevent our republic from becoming an oligarchy, a theocracy, a corporatology or a dictatorship?
I give me the following responses:
1. To keep my mind focused, despite the confusion.
2. To keep my hope alive, despite the despair.
3. To keep my faith positive, despite the rampant indifference.
4. To keep my love passionate, despite the anger and violence.
And to say “thank you” to people who may never hear a thank you from anyone. I invite you to join me.
Wayne Keller is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.