Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Personal Responsibility

People who know me pretty much know that I am a passionate, and rather opinionated, person. Those opinions are open to new information, but when I get into something I tend to research it, find all sides of an issue, and then feel comfortable in defending or promoting it. I can go off on all kinds of weird tangents depending on the subject (it's that whole wide-view-mind thing again...) and feel pretty comfortable in my position.

Of course, change the information available and I can change my opinion. That's what an open mind is all about, right? Or is that wishy-washy?

Either way, I try very hard to instill in my son a sense of personal responsibility. Repercussions are not punishments, they are the natural result of decisions he makes. If he makes different decisions, he'll get different results! For example, I have taught him that it's not ADHD that makes him behave the way he does, but that it's his decisions on how to behave. And while he may be quite smart in some ways, God balanced that with a weakness in some other way, like in self-control, so that means he has to work harder at it than most of his friends, like they have to work harder at science than he does. So the better he is at something, the harder he has to work at something else. Make sense?

So when a friend brought up a litigation suit in conversation today, I got quite upset. Apparently there was a child who was trying to chase the bus (he was late), tripped on his backpack, fell under the bus, and was killed when he got run over. Freak accident, right? Like the girl down the road who got run over by the tractor at 5 years old when I was a kid? (So maybe stuff like that didn't happen in your neighborhood, but I was a rural farm-type kid, and threre were several accidents, dismemberments, and/or deaths during my first few years in school...) Anyway, the mother is (apparently) suing both the bus driver and the school district over the loss of her son. Because she believes they are at fault.

I don't begrudge a mother her grief. And I certainly don't claim to know all the facts, I wasn't there, I don't know her, and I couldn't find a single reference to this on the internet, though I searched long and hard. But I tend to not blame the bus driver, nor the school district.

The bus driver did not, most likely, negligently drive over a child she knew was there. The school district certainly didn't intend for this to happen when they created neighborhood bus stops instead of picking up each child at their house. (Last I knew, only rural kids got picked up at home, anyway.) And then there is the tidbit that the mother drove her child to said busstop and sent him out to chase the bus as it left.

Maybe it's just me, but I still believe in freak accidents.

I also believe in personal responsibility, and the fact that we all, regardless of age, have to face up to the consequences of our decisions and actions. I'd be awfully freaked out if I watched my son follow my instructions, and get hurt or killed from following them! I've certainly made stupid and bad decisions that I've had to live with.

What I want to know is when did we stop taking ownership of our decisions, both good and bad, and give away that personal power? When did Americans start relying on others to make our decisions for us and sterilize our existence??? Was it the McD's coffee suit back in the day? The advent of warnings on everything, including my new carving knife that told me Caution: Cutting edge may be sharp? (It had better be! It's why I just bought it!).

It's my observation that we as Americans have this expectation that our government, or our businesses, or the corporations, or whatever, is going to protect us and keep us safe. We have thousands of frivolous lawsuits in the news, awarding millions of dollars to people for their blind expectation that others are at fault for their bad choices.

But how can we take ownership of our good decisions, if we don't take ownership of our mistakes, too? If someone else is at fault when things go wrong, then who do we blame when things go right??

I was raised to know and understand that the world is a big and dangerous place, and that no one is going to care about my safety and well-being more than I will. No husband, no knight in shining armor, no government, no doctor, no teacher, not even my parents. I am responsible for the decisions I make, both good and bad, whether I like it or not. I make mistakes. I accomplish difficult tasks. I get lazy and let things slide. I can't blame an illness, a disease, a person, a country, a drug, nothing.

And while my heart weeps for that mother, and everyone who has endured tragedy, freak accidents do happen. We do make choices with horrendous consequences we can't possibly imagine at the moment we make them. Our world, if we want freedom, is still a dangerous and deadly place, no matter how much litigation and lawmaking gets done on our behalf. We seem to expect children to suffer the consequences of their decisions and actions, while allowing adults to litigate their consequences away.

Own your decisions. Own your life. Own your freedom. As soon as you give away your decisions and expect someone else to make them for you, you've lost your freedoms. You gave them away.

Your dignity left at the same time, and took your self-respect with it.


Julie said...

Well said. VERY well said.

I was involved in a legitimate lawsuit a few-ten years back (stemming from my accident when I busted my hand). I had a wonderful lawyer, I was fully justified, and it was one of the most annoying experiences of my life. Like, I need tranquilizers to function, annoying.

Since then, I've been in several situations where I could have sued people or corporations. Know what? I'd pay money to NOT have to go to court. Because I've been there and you've got to be OUT OF YOUR MIND to do it voluntarily, grief be damned.

I think that ultimately, all the suing comes down to people feeling powerless, doing the only thing they can. But it's still ridiculous.

Alwen said...

Mea culpa is not popular these days, I agree. And the bitterly sad thing is that all that money spent by both sides will not bring the child back, or let his mother sleep at night.

NeedleTart said...

Locally (Southwest PA) there was a child (15-year-old)who ran across a busy street from a local church (their snacks did not meet his desires and he was warned) to a 7-11 equivalent. He was struck and spent several months in a coma. He has awakened and his family is suing the church, the driver and the 7-11. What are they teaching the kid, indeed.

Monica aka Gloria Patre said...

Amen to that! Blame is in fashion these days - what blows me away is the courts so liberally enabling it with such ridiculous cash awards! Talk about incentive! Unreal!