“The debbbil made me do it!” Anyone who watched television in the 70s, or watches re-runs, remembers Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine Jones” who often interacted with “Reverent Leroy, pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now.” Geraldine always referred to her boyfriend as “Killer.” One of Geraldine’s favorite lines, “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT,” became a national expression. This class comedy routine is amazingly relevant today. The characters may have changed but the idea is the same. It goes like this, “I am not responsible for my actions because…” It approaches our life in a way that believes we are simply helpless victims.
There are many destructive things that have become cemented into our culture’s psyche today. One of them is the idea of victimization. Victimization has become today’s “OUT” from accepting or facing personal responsibility for our life or behavior.
In a little over 100 years the therapeutic movement has become so entrenched into our western worldview that it has become part of our culture’s gospel. Many Christians unwhittingly believe it more than the word of God. It was alleged that in 1909, a 53 year old Jew born in Moravia (Sigmund Freud) poked a younger man from Switzerland (Carl Gustav Jung) in the ribs and said with excitement as they sailed into New York harbor, “Won’t they get a surprised when they hear what we have to say to them.”
Freud and Jung introduced many new ideas. Some have had positive benefits while others have lead to tragic consequences. For example, the reality that subconscious forces (many based on negative past experiences) influencing our thoughts and behavior, has been helpful in people understanding themselves. But like anything else taken to an extreme, some ideas can become problems. When people arrive at a conclusion that they are not responsible for their present behavior or choices, because of past experiences, then a victim mentality can develop that can be very destructive.
I remember overhearing a counselor speaking to a young woman whose life was being destroyed by promiscuity. Her father had abandoned her at a young age. The counselor said, “Your father abandoned you at a young age, and of course you’d be scared to trust men. That explains your promiscuity.” There is a big difference between something being a factor in our psyche and behavior, and something causing it. It is often seen as something we have no control over.
It is a very neat package to conclude that any present behavioral problem is caused by bad experiences from the past. When people keep blaming their present problems on the past then they get stuck in the identity of a victim.
I remember listening to a radio counselor speaking with a 25 year old caller named Kathy who was leaving her second marriage. The radio host asked, “Kathy at what point did you know that husband No 1 was violent and husband No 2 was on drugs?” “I guess before I married them” was her surprisingly frank answer. “My parents were divorced, and my brother died, I was upset.” Her answer to being upset was to marry two men who she knew were bad news and now she is single with three children from two attempts to bury her emotional pain.
Current ideas consider irresponsible bad behavior as generally psychological. It goes something like this, considering my hurts, disappointments and traumas; I can’t be responsible for the havoc I wreak in the lives of others or the mess I’ve made of my own life.
Do we really believe that a lack of character, courage, and conscience is a result of bad past experiences? Do we believe that laziness, refusing to hold down a job, living in a way that is damaging to children that we are responsible for bring into the world is always products of some form of psychoneurosis?
Responsible means we are able to respond
Everyone has a past, and some experiences are worse than others. No doubt our past has an effect on our outlook and emotions. But it doesn’t erase the fact that everyone has choices to make. We are free moral agents. We have been given the ability to make choices. Responsibility is the “ability” to “respond.”
We are not like animals that are very limited in their choices based on their instinct. We are clearly instructed in God’s word not to act like a beast. Psa 32:9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. Psa 73:22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
As a culture we seem to be losing an internal will to overcome. We no longer think we are responsible for our choices or behavior. Everyone has faced difficult things in their past that affects our present. Whatever the degree of difficulty in our past, we all still have the ability to choose in our present. If not, we become a nation of excuses and victims.
Victimization seems to be today’s Promised Land of absolution from personal responsibility. I remember a “Frank and Ernest” comic strip that showed two “bums” sitting along a wall and conversing. One says to the other, “Do you believe in fate?” The other replies, “Sure. I’d hate to think I turned out like this because of something I had control over!”
Changing our path
Acknowledging that you are responsible for the decisions you made that contributed to messing up your own life is admittedly very upsetting. But it is that very acknowledgement that is a beginning point in changing the direction of your life. There is a very important Biblical idea that we all must give heed to. If we want to change the direction our life we need to change our paths (the decisions we make and the steps we take) we are walking on.
The Bible clearly shows us that our paths have to do with determining our destiny than any other factor. If you want to change the course of your life you must change your paths you have been walking on. Psalm 119:35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Psalm 119:104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (NIV).
Psalm 50:23 NASB “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way (road, path, way, journey) aright I shall show the salvation of God.”
Pro 4:18 NASB But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
Psa 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
Pro 4:26 Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established
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