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Saturday, November 04, 2006


Taking responsibility: why is it passe?

Where have we as a society gone wrong in the training of the upcoming generation? This subject is a popular one with just about every older group of people I've personally ever talked too.

Taking responsibility for one's actions: There are simply too many young adults who do not feel the need to accept that they have done something for which they must take charge and repair the damages.

A colleague of mine had an experience recently with a 23 year-old that left several people dumbfounded with the attitude and unmitigated gall. The young man had a fender bender with my co-worker, not a serious one, but the car was damaged and needed body work. The vehicle that was hit was not moving and was no way at any fault. Probably due to several of these little incidents, the driver of the assaulting car wanted to pay for the damages out of pocket rather than let his insurance pay. He had my colleague go to three venues for estimates. This obviously meant taking time off of work for the victim, yet being a most decent person, he went-pointing out to that there would still be the fee for the rental car and that "this is what insurance is for".

That seemed to set off an unpleasantness to the situation-the doer of the deed actually told his victim "well, you have to take responsibility for your share of the accident-afterall, you were there waiting for me to hit you"! I'm sure those words were probably not exact, but I was in earshot range and basically that was the gist of what was said.

We couldn't believe the behavior! Yet, unfortunately it wasn't the first time I've heard of someone trying to shirk off paying for damages they had created. I remember a former neighbor child deliberately taking a rock a flinging it through one of my windows and telling his parents "she told me too"! The parents hearing this bunk refused to pay for the damages. At least I know where that kid got his ethics from, immoralists.

As a person, a parent and a former teacher, I certainly do not claim to be perfect or always make the right choices, yet I certainly try to set an example of doing the right thing. Yes, I've had my days where I'm sure someone probably wondered what rock I crawled out from, but in general, I do try to be truthful and take my lumps when I deserve them. If I've said the wrong thing, I don't do so with malice in mind and try to apologize as soon as I realize (or have it pointed out to me). If I damage someone's property and they are not around, I leave a note. It is not in my nature to ignore "my bad" and leave. In this, I hope I am still in the majority.

What surprised me the most about this situation, is that about half way through the negotiations I was taking a message from this boy-man and found out I knew him! In fact, I had known him since he was 5-a former classmate of my son's, whom had been at our home many times until my son and he "outgrew" each other. I know his parents, who have moved from the area, but always seemed to be responsible people. For this reason, I am having difficulty rationalizing how their son became the type of individual who thought he should not have to see this self-created problem through to completion on a positive note.

I wonder how would his parents would be feeling when they found out they had raised a (pardon the Yiddish) schmuck? Personally, if I found out that one of my two adult children even thought about using the"blame the victim" mentality, I would be on them like butter to toast. My son calls it "Mom's evil eye". He says no matter what he's thinking of doing, when he sees my eyebrow go up, he decides that even at 23, it's just not worth the guilt I can make him feel. Imagine, I have managed to instill a sense of right versus wrong without using anything but a look.

Maybe I should develop a seminar: How to raise responsible people with only one glance.

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