When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see the man who gives me the most trouble in life—ME! It would be easier to blame my parents, my wife, my siblings, my co-workers, or society in general, but I need to take responsibility for my own failures, brokenness, and, yes, sin.
I learned a number of years ago, that I cannot change anyone. I have no control over what other people say, do, or think. But I do have control over what I say, do, and think.
We live in an age where personal responsibility is passé. I’m not sure when personal responsibility died but I’m praying for a resurrection.
If we sow bad seeds, we will get bad stuff. This is what the Bible teaches, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap./ For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV).
I was taught to own up to my faults and failures. Our parents who had evidence in hand of our transgressions made us confess to our own waywardness. And then they punished us. I had to hoe down some of the bad crops my bad seeds brought forth.
I can still hear my Mama saying, “Harry, act like you’ve got some sense!!” It was great advice that would not pass the sniff test of today’s child psychologists, but it has kept me out of jail and divorce court.
Perhaps personal responsibility began to take its gasping breaths when we started giving everyone a participation trophy even though they were terrible at soccer. The heart was right to build up our children rather than tear down, but it did little to prepare them for the real world.
When I taught high school, occasionally I would have a student complain about something, “It’s not fair!” My stock answer was, “Life’s not fair, get used to it!” There has always been fairy headed people who dream of an impossible utopian world. Someone said, “Those who try to build Heaven on Earth usually make it Hell on Earth.”
Another death blow came when we renamed sin, a sickness. The resulting logic became; if our brokenness was sickness, then we have no control over it, so therefore it was not our fault. “I am what I am so leave me alone!” cries the sinner.
I know there are many people who go through hell with their struggles. I’m not trying to demean their pain or their struggles, but we must plug personal responsibility into the equation at some point. I believe we can hold people accountable while being compassionate. I have cried and prayed with many of the broken—some succeeded and some failed.
I have also seen many people whose life has been filled with destruction that was the result of one wrong decision after another for decades. Again, if you sow bad seeds you will get a bad harvest.
I realize there are people who have been marginalized and whose life’s journey has been a horror show with no fault of their own. My heart breaks when I hear stories of children who were sexually abused and those who were victims of sex trafficking. Some estimate the number of 21st Century slaves at 40 million people, mostly women and many are children. I have visited foreign slums and third world countries where people live on $1-2 per day and have little hope for a better future. I cry for them and do what I can.
There have been millions of people by the grace of God who have taken the rocks thrown at them and built a bridge to a brighter future. Some have taken the sticks poked at them and built ladders to climb out of their pit. They have refused to call themselves by the name the world called them, but rather heard the voice of God and believed who God said they were from the beginning.
Let’s help those who hurt. Let’s lift those who are in the dirt. Let’s snatch from the fire those who are burning. Let’s shine the Light of Jesus to those in darkness. Let’s weep with those who weep. For the rest of us—look in the mirror!!
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt