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Margo’s Choice

October 28, 2012

I have a confession to make: Sometimes I eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.  Occasionally, it’s intentional (it’s called ‘research’); more often, though, it’s entirely involuntary (I mean, how can you NOT listen in to cell phone conversations when people are practically YELLING in order to be heard over the background music in the mall or the cacophony of sounds in the grocery store? And most people have no idea just how LOUD their voices can be when they’re engaged in a titillating tête-à-tête with a friend or two in a restaurant or at the food court).

Cellphone CrowdPeople talk about all sorts of things in public (and – PLEASE – when you’re yakking on your cell phone or carrying on an animated conversation with another person or persons in Marshall’s or Sears or Whole Foods, there is nothing PRIVATE about it).  I’ve heard snippets of people’s problems with parents, children, and other sundry family members; issues with teachers, students, and politicians; troubles with neighbours, friends, and enemies; dilemmas associated with medical, marital, and religious quandaries.  I’ve overheard accolades and complaints, exaltations of joy and sorrow, acknowledgements of triumphs and tragedies, expressions of joy and sorrow.  It’s amazing what goes on in the daily lives of the people milling all around us.

It's Not My FaultWhile there is, of course, no ‘pattern’ to most of the conversations I overhear, there is an alarmingly repetitive theme that permeates a good number of them, and it both baffles and angers me. It’s generally precipitated with (or followed by) the all-too-often-heard claim (that I used to – in jest [sometimes] – refer to as ‘the universal call of the next generation’): “It’s not my fault”.

Those four little words are seen by many as an ‘excuse’ for whatever bad decision(s) or poor choice(s) they’ve made; they view them as a sort of ‘get out of trouble free’ card that absolves them of all blame, pardons their behaviour, and exempts them from the consequences of their actions.  What is amazing to me is that by making this claim, they are simply refusing to acknowledge that THEY (themselves) made the decision or choice of their own free will (NOTE: if you are a believer in determinism – the idea that everything that happens in our lives is pre-determined and that nothing we say or do has any impact on it [ergo: that ‘free will’ doesn’t exist] – you might want to stop reading now).

ScapegoatIt troubles me enormously to hear people proclaim (things like): she made me do it; he wouldn’t let me; I had no choice; she forced me; he coerced me … because each of those statements assumes that the individual speaking was stripped of their free will; this is simply not possible. Yes, you might be influenced (by family, friends, religion, culture or circumstance) to ‘lean’ one way or another when making a decision or a choice, but ultimately what you do (or say) is entirely (100%) up to you.  Even in the most horrific of circumstances (for example, when the mother in William Styron’s novel, “Sophie’s Choice”, had to decide which of her two children to hand over to the Nazis and which one to let live), the actual decision is still made by the person who has been given the choice. No one can ‘make’ you do anything (they can pressure or intimidate or bully you, but the final choice is always yours and yours alone).

ResponsibilityI suppose it’s ‘human nature’ to want to blame someone else for the poor decisions or bad choices we make in our lives, but the bottom line is this: they were/are YOUR choices and blaming someone else (no matter who they are and what they did or said to make you decide what to do or say) is, quite simply, a ‘cop out’. Why won’t people simply take responsibility for their actions and stop blaming others?!?!? I don’t get it!

Bernard Baskin, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Anshe Sholom in Hamilton wrote an article for our local newspaper recently about the paths we choose; in it he said, “Ultimately, the glory and the anguish of being human derive from our ability to chose and direct the course of our lives. It is often tempting to throw up our hands and plead helplessness. But that strategy leads only to defeat and despair. Significant living is always characterized by the knowledge that human will and determination play a decisive role in deciding what kind of person we will become.”

There are no perfect human beings; no one makes ‘good’ decisions all the time or chooses the ‘right’ option at every opportunity.  I certainly haven’t (as Freddy Mercury sings in Queen’s “We Are the Champions”: And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few …) but I accept the fact that they were MY mistakes and MY choices and that the only person to ‘blame’ for them is ME.  I might wonder, occasionally, what would have happened if I’d done things differently – taken a different path when I came across a fork in the road, so to speak – but I know that whatever I might have done – whatever choices I might have made – I would still have ended up right here where I am, on … the other side of 55.

Road Less Travelled Quote

  1. November 3, 2012 9:26 pm

    I absolutely agree that too few people take responsibility for their lives and their choices. That said, I wonder if there’s something in each of us that makes us key into certain conversations, really hearing the words, and not others.

    • November 4, 2012 9:59 am

      And interesting premise … and probably quite correct. We hear what we want to hear and not what we don’t.


  2. October 30, 2012 9:40 am

    So well said. I find it painful (as a pain in my ….) to listen to these obnoxious conversations. And we certainly are raising a society of those who think they are entitled to whatever they want or do whatever they want without any consequences for their choices or actions.

    • October 30, 2012 10:28 am

      Thanks. I so want to snap at people who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions/behaviours and tell them to ‘Grow up!’ But the fact is, they never will. We definitely live in a world of expected entitlement; I wonder what will happen when all those weak souls realize no one is going to live their lives for them?


  3. October 29, 2012 11:15 am

    Well said. My husband and I have had conversations about this, about people not taking responsibility or having an excuse for everything. He works with the public and sees it time after time.

    • October 29, 2012 2:26 pm

      Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse (I taught college for 30+ years and very few of those students EVER took responsibility for their ‘mistakes’).


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