Take Personal Responsibility For All Your Decisions
by Michael D. Hume, M.S.
I was watching the news today (big mistake, I know), and I heard some pundits discussing a recent tragedy on a U.S. college campus. Seems a young couple (“roommates”) secretly filmed a young colleague’s private behind-closed-doors behavior and disseminated the video on the internet. The young man who was targeted became despondent and committed suicide. Since he was (as I understand it) a gay kid, the pundits I saw were talking about whether or not the couple should be prosecuted for a hate crime.
Personally, I have no view on that… I think all real crime comes from a hateful place within the perpetrator. What caught my attention was how these news personalities went on about what a tragedy it was for all three of the families. Obviously, they said, the victim’s family is devastated. But what a tragedy it also is for the two perpetrators and their families, they proclaimed. After all, the young woman was such a “good student” (I heard these words repeatedly) and the young man was such a “good musician.” And now their lives, too, have been devastated, and their families dragged into tragedy.
That sentiment seems OK, as far as it goes. Of course, one’s heart goes out to all three families. But mine does not particularly go out to the cyber-bullies, and I don’t think they deserve the descriptor “good.”
Perhaps we’ve all given in to the devil inside us, and we’ve teased or made fun of others. In my life, I’ve been much more on the receiving end of such behavior… but I’m not without sin in terms of failing to rise above my own mean-spiritedness on some occasions. But never would I cross the line these kids crossed. By the time I got to the moment where it was time to hit the “record” button (or certainly by the time I would be clicking “send”), the better angels of my nature would have talked me out of it. And anyone who’s a basically “good” person would, in my opinion, also have pulled up short of what this couple did.
If any of my adult offspring are reading this, let me assure you: if you pull something like this it will hurt your family… but I won’t say it’s a tragedy because you’re such a “good student,” or “good musician,” or “good” anything. You provoke someone else to suicide, you are not good.
When I was a young man, I was a called a “good kid,” a “good student” and a “good musician.” But my mentors and teachers made it clear to me that, in order to be a “good musician,” for instance, you first had to be a good person. And I think that’s true. Wanna be a good student? Start be being a good human being.
My intent here is not to make the perpetrators of this crime feel worse than they already may feel… but to illustrate how, in our modern society, our standards for personal responsibility have virtually disappeared, one “progressive” inch at a time. Today, we tend to give ourselves a free pass for some hideous behavior because we’ve been “good” in other areas of our lives. Increasingly, it’s OK to be nasty to your team if you’re a brilliant intellectual strategist. You can get away with backstabbing your colleagues if your sales numbers are awesome. And it’s not cool to steal your best buddy’s girlfriend – unless you’re the star forward on the basketball team.
The truth is, if you habitually perpetrate this sort of evil, you are not “good.” If you don’t get into deep trouble, our society will; it’s hard to argue we aren’t already there. The global economy is a wreck, largely because many people got “good” at taking other people’s money and corrupting our governments. “Good” people who might otherwise take responsibility for, say, starting a strong business and employing other people, are instead infected with the disease of entitlement and are spending their energies getting others to carry their burdens. You can even see the trend in our waistlines: we look like we think it’s OK to ignore a serious overall approach to our personal health and vitality because we were “good” enough to skip dessert that one time last week.
We need to get a grip on this. Our ancestors in America passed on to us some real opportunities to live healthy, happy, prosperous lives… but we are quickly squandering those opportunities. It turns out that, for all the self-praise and encouragement we hear in the media and in our ever-present entertainments, we are not really all that good. And that’s bad.