by Brian G. Bettes
My wife and I just returned from a conference where the keynote speaker was Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books. In the world of authorship, Jack is unique. Most authors would be happy to write one book that hits the New York Times bestseller list and sells one million copies within their writing career. Jack has written 47 books that have hit the New York Times bestseller list, and since writing the first Chicken Soup book, sold well over 500 million books. He is also in The Guinness Book of World Records for having seven books on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time.
Suffice it to say, when Jack Canfield starts talking about how to write a bestseller, people tend to sit up and listen. As one who is authoring a book, I was there to hear what Jack had to say. I found it both inspiring and refreshing that one of Mr. Canfield’s foremost principles in successful writing is, you must take 100 percent responsibility for your life—no exceptions, no excuses. This ideal in very different than the world in which we live.
Over the past several decades, an insidious cancer has entered our society. It is a way of thinking that has paved the pathway to the concepts of entitlement, political correctness, victimization, self-indulgence, and self-pity. I call it the, “Poor me, it’s not my fault” syndrome.
Our society has become a very self-centered, self-absorbed, wannie-boohoo, “you owe me,” “I deserve better than this,” “I am going to throw a tempter-tantrum because I didn’t get my way” society. Today many are completely ill-equipped to deal with reality. Reference the reaction of some whose candidate wasn’t elected in the recent U.S. presidential race. This was prophesied to happen long ago by the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
An entire generation of children have been raised believing that their psyche would be irreparably damaged if they weren’t continuously caudled and pampered. Instead of being taught to face the realities of correction and consequences when they do something wrong, accepting the abrasiveness of a win/lose world, having to work hard and persevere to succeed, or suffering the injustice of the “harsh, cruel world,” they were taught to make excuses or point the finger at someone else. It is the blame game at its best. Nothing is ever their fault so they blame everything bad or difficult on someone else. As a result, they don’t feel the need to take responsibility for any of their actions! This approach is not new. Its roots started growing in a Garden nearly 6,000 years ago (Genesis 3:12).
Can we please get real here for a moment?
Life is hard, unpleasant, and downright harsh at times. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t had undeserved injustices happen to them. That is how life works sometimes. Instead of “protecting” their children by insulating them from the harshness of the world, parents should love their children by teaching them this one truth: life is going to hand you a sandwich with completely rotten meat and moldy bread sometimes. The question isn’t whether or not this is going to happen. The question is, what are you going to do when you get one?
Many people seem to think that taking responsibility for your life means bad things shouldn’t happen to you. Sorry, that just isn’t reality! Taking responsibility for your life means, when you have bad things happen, you accept it, take the challenge to do what is right, and rise above the difficulties forced upon you by the situation (1 Peter 2:19-20). Taking responsibility is about keeping your life focused on, and headed in, the right direction no matter what happens (Matthew 6:33). No blaming someone else for your circumstances!
Think of what would have happened if Jesus Christ had decided not to do the right thing? Was He persecuted? Was He derided? Were there those who hated Him unjustly? Did He deserve to die? What if He said to the Father, “This is messed up! Why should I have to take responsibility for humanity’s sin? I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not my fault they didn’t obey Your word. I don’t want to die for them. Let them suffer the consequences of eternal death for their sins. I deserve better than this.”
Would any of His statements have been true? Think about it. Everything stated above is true. It is messed up and He had to take responsibility for our sin. He didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t His fault that we couldn’t obey the Father and therefore earned the penalty of death. Though He proved that He wanted to die for us, because ultimately He did so, the physical part of Him didn’t want to suffer the physical pain and humiliation of hanging on a cross like a piece of meat (Matthew 26:39). We did in fact deserve to die for our own sin, forfeiting eternal life (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Last but not least, He did deserve better than what He got on this earth.
Thankfully, Jesus saw the bigger picture and took 100 percent responsibility for the reason He came here; His role in our future (Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 12:2)! I am so very thankful for that. But just as He accepted 100 percent responsibility for His life’s purpose, are we not to do the same? After all, He is our example, and we are supposed to follow in His footsteps, aren’t we (1 Peter 2:21)?
Or are we like Job who kept proclaiming his righteousness and how none of what he was suffering was his fault (Job 10:1-2, 7)?
I have heard many sermons over the years talk about how Job was righteous by God’s own standard, therefore he was unjustly tested. They use Job 1:8; 2:3 to uphold this position. Is that what God said, that he was sinless? Yes, Job was righteous in God’s eyes by the “letter of the law,” but can we say that there wasn’t a “spirit of the law” lesson that God wanted to get across to him?
Job did not take any responsibility for his plight until the very last chapter of the book after He was confronted directly by God (Job 42:1-6). It was only after gaining an understanding of his smallness before God that he understood that he did indeed have responsibility in his circumstances. He was supposed to uphold God above himself; uphold God’s righteousness and judgment higher than his own. God was making clear to Job that only He is righteous, and nothing else makes us righteous.
How about it? When difficult circumstances or trials come up in our lives, do we humble ourselves before our elder Brother and our Father? Do we seek Them to see what we can learn from these situations? Or do we just complain about them? Do we seek repentance and ask for forgiveness where need be, and ask to be able to understand what we can learn? Instead of whining and blaming, do we respond righteously, as Jesus would? Are we accepting 100 percent responsibility for our lives?