Nobody accepts responsibility anymore

Scott Ballard District Attorney

December 8, 2013

This weekend I was watching a football game. Nothing newsworthy about that—I watch football games almost non-stop every fall weekend.

But, something happened that I hadn’t seen in awhile.

A player made a bone-headed mistake. In front of over 90,000 fans. With millions more watching on TV. Everybody knew he had messed up. The camera zoomed in. It focused on him. We all saw his number. His name was on his jersey. The announcer was critical of his actions. His coach was unhappy.

But, the player didn’t dispute the referee’s call. He didn’t yell at a teammate and blame him.

Instead, he tapped his chest and we could all read his lips.

“My fault,” he said.

It was refreshing. I used to see that all the time. I didn’t realize how rare it had become until that very moment. He was actually accepting responsibility for his actions.

Nobody does that anymore.

When something goes wrong these days, everybody blames somebody else. As a nation, we have mastered the art of evading responsibility.

It reminds me of the Family Circus cartoon. Something is broken and the mother asks what happened. All she gets is a chorus of “Not me.” Even from her husband.

Years ago I was off with my father-in-law. We were late getting back home. Both of us knew that our wives would be unhappy when we finally returned to the house. He said, “What I always do is come in the house just as mad as a wet hen about something awful that somebody else has done. Pretty soon, she’s mad at them and not me.”

I’ve never been able to make that work. I guess I really haven’t tried. When I mess up, it’s always pretty obvious and there is nowhere to hide. Better just to “man-up” and take the medicine.

But, on the larger scale, it has gotten out of hand. Even when there is an obvious villain, the media isn’t satisfied until they have blamed somebody else. A guy opens fire in a crowded place and kills a dozen people. Soon talking heads are bemoaning the fact that somebody sold him the gun, or that nobody predicted this would happen and prevented the tragedy, or that help didn’t arrive as quickly as it should. It’s never enough just to say, “Let’s punish the guy who shot and killed a bunch of people.”

So, Presidents blame the software. And Congress. And the previous President.

Criminals blame their difficult childhood. Liberals blame guns. Conservatives blame the media. And the media blames anybody that may keep the story alive.

Meanwhile, covered in dust and unheeded by too many, the Bible whispers words we all need to hear: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

The first step? We need to say, “My fault.”