Do we have personal responsibility or are we simply victims of circumstance? Is it possible that both are true?
I’ve gone through the painstaking process of setting goals and then working to make them a reality. I did all the right things – believe, speak, and work toward hitting the target, only to come up short. Or, to find myself completely derailed.
I became disenchanted with goals after all hell broke loose.
It’s not that I completely stopped believing in having goals, but I couldn’t ignore the glaring reality that we have little to no control over many of the events and situations in which we find ourselves.
We do have complete control of our thoughts, words, and actions.
Beyond that, all bets are off. If that’s the truth, then where does that leave us? Are we victims of our circumstances? Perhaps, but if we don’t add back in a personal responsibility component, we risk sliding down the slippery slope of victimhood.
The reality is we experience betrayal, dishonesty, or abuse. People let us down, lie about us, or worse. Addiction breaks our hearts and threatens our families. We grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes. Some of our lives intersect with criminals.
My daughter, Jamie, experienced a life-threatening gunshot wound when she was 18, courtesy of her ex-boyfriend. She was a victim of that crime. Our entire family was considered a victim.
Another guy made a decision that changed my life forever when he murdered Jamie. She was only 30 years old. It left our family again with the title of “victim.” There is no problem with the term as it relates to the justice process, but I refuse to live my life as a victim. I am a victor! An overcomer.
For the better part of 15 years, while Jamie lived with her addiction Beast, I would recall quotes from my goal-setting days such as,
“Our lives are the sum total of the choices we have made.”
Those stinging words rang in my ears and raced through my mind as I wondered what choices I had made that landed me in this devastating situation. Was it my decision to have a child? Was it the time I slapped her in the face?
If I was personally responsible for everything that happened in my life, then this was my fault.
I took personal responsibility to a whole new level, punishing myself for Jamie’s addiction, and everything else that was far off those goals that had slipped through my fingers.
Shame and guilt covered me and settled in for the long haul. I was angry, resentful, and powerless.
Finally, I became sick and tired of being sick and tired, I climbed out of my prison of victimhood. When I did, I once again wondered if I happened to be where I was solely due to my choices. I wanted to take responsibility for my life, but I kept thinking about those circumstances for which I had zero control? Each time I did, it was tempting to head back to Victimland.
I pondered whether we are victims of circumstances, or because of our choices. Considering each option was confusing. It was easier to choose the victim route, but there had to be an element of personal responsibility.
The fact is that both are true.
We are where we are today due to our decisions and circumstances entirely outside of our control. Once you come to that realization, you have another choice to make. You can either allow yourself to be a victim or use all of it and become responsible for your life. Even those parts of it that happened through no fault of your own.
It is freeing to leave Victimland, where only grief, weakness, and darkness reside. There is nothing more empowering than forgiving those who have hurt us. Letting go of anger and resentment opens our future up to possibilities. Standing up and deciding to make the very best of the rest of your life is powerful.
We must take responsibility for our lives, no matter how we got here.
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