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My Two Cents

December 19, 2021, 12:00 AM

It’s been a while now, but once upon a time I was the father of three little boys. These three have grown up to be fine young men who love and care for one another. I can say that now. But there were days when I had my doubts it would ever happen.

Three may be the perfect number for manifestations of God, points in a sermon, and legs on a stool. But the perpetually shifting alliances among brothers makes three a problem. Most days the oldest got to pick the teams. One day he’d befriend number two and they’d gang up on the unsuspecting youngest just to toughen him up. Then when that got boring the two on either end would go after the poor guy in the middle. Eventually, the two youngest would figure out they were being played and go after the big cheese when he wasn’t looking. Every day was different. But the one thing all those shifting alliances made certain: when trouble arose, it was impossible to learn “who started it?”

We tried separating them to compare their stories. We tried assuring them that confession would lead to bonus points when it came time for punishment. We reminded them that tattling wasn’t always good but sometimes it was necessary. It was always difficult to get to the bottom of the story. In fact, it was usually hard to get beyond, “It wasn’t my fault.” No matter how bad the trouble, it was never anyone’s fault.

Denying responsibility is a staple of the young. And to some degree it stays with us, right? That first impulse when something goes wrong is almost always to look to someone else as the cause. When we ask, “have you seen my keys?” isn’t there often an initial edge to the question that suggests someone other than us is at fault?

But over time we learn to temper the denial impulse. We bite the bullet and accept at least some responsibility when something goes wrong. As we grow, most of us do that personally. But on a larger scale? That is something else altogether.

People, just look around and behold all the ways we are in trouble. The planet is warming. Guns originally designed to feed our families and protect the innocent are taking both from us at an alarming rate. People of color are much more likely to be poor, and much more prone to get sick, than white people. Policing in our cities isn’t working very well. The list goes on.

But despite these obvious signs of trouble our collective, societal response isn’t much different than what we heard from our boys back in the day: “I didn’t start it, so it must be someone else’s fault.”

Maybe, as a country we will one day mature into being more self-reflective about the trouble we are in. But, until we can get beyond our national toddler mentality, we are going to have a really hard time getting to the bottom of things. Sometimes, it is, at least partially, our fault.

Shalom  ~Rick