This week I happened to catch a few minutes of a popular talk show on television, and the topic was confessions. A young man was confessing to his girlfriend of 5 years that he had cheated on her with her best friend. Not too unusual these days I guess. But what he said next floored me. “It was an accident. One thing led to another and before I knew it, we were having sex.”
I beg your pardon? How do you accidentally have sex with someone? Call the Surgeon General, we may have an epidemic on our hands. People are losing control of their own minds and bodies and randomly having sex!
Sadly, this type of thinking is all too common in our society, and not just in relationships either. We don’t want to take the blame for anything, or be responsible for anything. We blame the weather, our friends, our bosses, the government and anything else that happens to be convenient.
Let’s face it, no one likes to be wrong, or admit that we screwed up. Our society is obsessed with perfection. Just look at the ads on television and in magazines. All you see are perfect, airbrushed, white-toothed, smiling models. In this day and age, image is everything. (I personally don’t think so, but that seems to be the popular trend.)
You will be admired if you drive the right car, wear the right clothes and project the right “look.” If you’ve done something wrong or made a mistake, you’d better sweep it under the carpet quickly so no one finds out. If others find out you’re not perfect, you will no longer be put up on that pedestal.
I realize I’m dramatizing a wee bit, but I see it all the time and I’m sure you do too. So what’s the big deal? Who cares if we don’t accept responsibility for our own actions? Who are we really hurting? Ourselves.
Just because no one knows about our dirty little secrets, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Continuing to conceal them and put on a mask of perfection eats away at our souls, little by little. As we pretend to be more and more perfect, we keep adding more pressure on ourselves. The more perfect we pretend to be, the harder we will have to work to keep up that charade. While we may look perfect on the outside, inside we know we’re frauds and we have to do whatever it takes to keep people from finding out. Talk about anxiety!
In addition, how can we take credit for the good things we do when we won’t acknowledge the bad? If we feel like a phony, our accomplishments will be tarnished by those feelings. They won’t shine as brightly as they would if we could be truly proud of ourselves.
That doesn’t mean we have to shout our mistakes from the rooftops either. But if we’ve done something wrong or hurt someone we care about, it’s our responsibility to try to set it right. That might mean apologizing, or doing what we can to fix the damage we’ve done.
But at the very least we should acknowledge our mistakes to ourselves, and vow to try harder next time. Sometimes when we mess up it’s not ALL our fault. There may have been reasons why we acted like we did. Maybe our hearts were in the right place, but we didn’t consider the possible consequences. We made a decision that caused a negative outcome. We have to acknowledge and accept that, not deny it.
It’s been said that “character is what you do when you think no one is watching.” I love that! What a powerful truth it is. It’s wonderful that our character is 100% within our control. We choose who we want to be. We can consider our options and make a conscious decision on what actions we take. We can choose to be a great person, or a fraud. The important thing to remember is that these ARE choices we are making. It’s no one’s fault but our own.
How funny that we try to shun responsibility because we think it will make us look more perfect, when in fact the truth is, being accountable for ourselves can only build our character, not detract from it.
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