More and more people are assuming less and less responsibility for their actions. Why is this happening? Where will it lead?
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While running an errand during his lunch hour, John gets caught up in a traffic jam in a section of town known as the “French Fry District,” thus named for its many fast-food establishments. Since it is a pleasant day, John has his windows down, and the enticing aroma of burgers and fries, fish and chips, pizza, and tacos drifts his way.
This sparks the voice of hunger pangs, and at the next intersection, John decides to give in to the cravings. Five minutes later, he is exiting the drive-thru with a double cheeseburger, large order of fries and a soft drink.
Five years later, having maintained this daily lunchtime regimen, John visits his doctor for his annual physical, and is given a not-so-clean bill of health. He is told that, unless he determines to make drastic changes in his eating habits, he will not have very long to live.
“But it’s not my fault,” John argues. “It’s those deceitful fast food places. They didn’t properly warn me of the danger they were subjecting me to. And they knew I would be unable to resist, so they built their facilities too close to the highway and my car just naturally turned in to the drive-thru.”
Though this scenario may sound ridiculous and far-fetched to some, recent litigation involving the tobacco and fast-food industries has brought to light an aspect of human nature that had previously been seemingly suppressed. In this day and age, it has become a visible, dominant part of society.
Increasingly, in today’s society, people are shunning personal responsibility for their actions. Every wrong thing that they do—resulting in harm to themselves or others—is always “somebody else’s fault.”
Almost invariably now, when things go wrong in people’s lives, or do not turn out exactly the way they would prefer, they seek a “scapegoat,” someone else to point the finger at and shoulder the blame. This is especially true when people experience negative consequences because of their own failure to conduct themselves in a responsible manner or to handle matters in the right and proper way.
The world is witnessing the rapid disappearance of human willingness to accept even any semblance or degree of personal responsibility. Popular psychology has programmed people to “pass the buck,” to automatically take a defensive stance when confronted with negative consequences resulting from their own actions. They are routinely taught to place the blame on anything and anyone other than themselves.
Accepting responsibility, they are taught, would merely lead to feelings of guilt, which are “unproductive and unfulfilling.” In order to “move on,” one must learn “self-forgiveness,” placing the blame where it “properly belongs,” whether it be a bad childhood, a rotten marriage, stress on the job, physical/mental impairment, and so on.
Common sense has also seemingly disappeared from the scene. This is evidenced by human willingness to accept such perverted arguments in justification of practically every form of wrongdoing. (The very proliferation of such arguments is, of itself, proof of their social acceptance. If people knew that their “justifications” would fall on deaf ears, why would they feel compelled to tell their “side of the story”?)
The absence of judicial prudence is also demonstrated by a legal system in which anybody can sue anybody over anything. (To learn more, you may wish to read our free trend report The Worldwide Crimewave.) The following article excerpts are but a few examples of this perversion of justice:
“A Phoenix mother who admitted lacing her daughters’ ice cream with prescription tranquilizers is suing a health care provider and others, saying they are responsible for her drug-induced delirium at the time. [The mother], 38, who was acquitted in July of attempted murder charges, filed a medical malpractice claim in Maricopa County Superior Court against Jewish Family Services, a nurse practitioner and ValueOptions, a mental-health care provider” (“Mom who drugged kids’ ice cream sues,” Carol Sowers, Arizona Republic).
“In Australia, ‘[a] man who broke into a house and attacked the home owner when he was discovered has launched a civil action against his victim for compensation.’ [Perpetrator] says he is still suffering ‘physically and emotionally’ from the aftermath of the 1997 incident, in which he scuffled with [homeowners] and was attacked by the couple’s dogs” (“The thief who sued his victim,” Daily Telegraph [NSW, Australia]).
“Columnist Mona Charen comments on two auto safety suits, one of them the child-left-in-hot-van case discussed in this space Oct. 20. In the other case, $2 million went to the survivors of a Texas man who’d left a truck running on a hill and walked behind it. ‘You don’t need an owner’s manual to tell you that it’s dangerous to walk behind a running, driverless vehicle on a steep hill. This used to be known as common sense. But so long as juries return such verdicts, the concept of individual responsibility gets hammered ever lower…the trial lawyers’ wallets grow corpulent, and the populace is increasingly infantilized’” (Jewish World Review).
“A 19-year-old woman, having stopped to change a flat tire at the side of the road, is taken away and murdered by a local man. According to a lawyer for her family, the Ford Motor Co. and tiremaker Bridgestone/ Firestone should be made to pay for the murder. A court dismissed the case against the two companies on grounds that they could not have found harm of this sort foreseeable enough to trigger a legal duty of care, but the family’s lawyer…is appealing to the Nebraska Supreme Court” (“Murder victim’s parents say flat set off tragic events,” Fremont Tribune).
The above article reported that the defendant in the case was convicted and sentenced for the crime. Hence, the victim’s family’s pursuit of monetary compensation from the two manufacturing companies is not a matter of seeking justice, but rather an attempt to capitalize on her tragedy.
This is one of the many side effects of a justice system incapable of identifying and addressing cause and effect. That the perpetrator of such a heinous act against another human being should be punished accordingly is not the question.
However, the idea that a family’s grief over the loss of one of its members can be alleviated by any amount of money (and that not even from the one responsible for the crime)—and that such sentiment is even the motivation behind such lawsuits—is reprehensible. This reduces justice to a mere “buyer-seller” transaction and grossly dishonors the memory of the victim.
Rather than focusing on the true victim of this crime, and on the senseless waste of human life, the above-mentioned family paint themselves as the victims (as if mental and emotional distress, while to be expected, outweighs the finality of death). Since their legal actions obviously cannot bring their loved one back to life, the underlying motive becomes transparent.
A further side effect of such irresponsible greed is an increase in the cost of goods and services produced by the companies named as defendants in such civil court cases, in the event that they are deemed partially responsible and required to pay damages (for something that they could not possibly foresee, much less prevent). To compensate for their losses, and in order to remain in business, such companies are forced to raise prices, which directly affects consumers.
Think of it this way: Should manufacturers be required to address—as part of their product development process—every potential misuse and abuse of their products and/or every possible scenario that could arise from the failure of their products due to such misuse/abuse or to other circumstances completely beyond the manufacturers’ ability to control?
Let’s ask the question bluntly. Should they have to look ahead and consider the following?:
“What if someone falls victim to a violent crime while operating/using our product? We have to make sure that our product does not directly or indirectly contribute to the possibility that such a crime could take place. Or, we must at least prominently display disclaimers that protect us from liability in the event that the operator/user does fall victim to a crime during operation/use of our product, or commits a crime using our product.”
Or: “Let’s consider every possible way our product could be used for anything other than its intended purpose and make sure we have adequate financial resources in place to cover ourselves in the event of litigation against us by those who are injured when using it in those ways (since there is obviously inadequate space on our product for warning labels advising against all such uses).”
Where would the madness end? For example, should a drunk driver be able to blame auto manufacturers for his actions?—“If they hadn’t made the car, I couldn’t have driven it.” Or perhaps he should blame the liquor store that provided the alcohol that he later abused. Or even the police, who could have prevented his accident, had they only “done the right thing” and arrested him earlier. Notice the following account:
“‘A teen-age driver seriously injured in an accident is suing the city because a police officer failed to arrest him for drunken driving minutes before the crash.’ [The teen-age driver] of Bradenton, Fla. alleges that officers told him to drive home rather than taking him into custody despite his intoxication, which makes it their fault that he got into a serious accident minutes later” (“Fla. DUI Teen Sues Police,” AP/Yahoo News).
Most people have a “live-and-let-live” attitude when it comes to such matters as long as those things do not directly affect them personally. They would not ordinarily take a personal interest in one isolated incident, such as the murder case cited earlier. But most people do take notice when certain events affect their “buying power.”
Therefore, one would think that, even if such cases do not generate public outrage on the moral level, they should, at the least, concern people on an economic level. In other words, humanly speaking, if people cannot get angry at such displays of blatant disregard for human life, and seek justice accordingly, they should at least be able to shake their heads in disbelief and dismay at the outright abuses of a system that was at least founded upon the premise of “justice for all.” After all, it is such abuses that lead to their own “victimization,” as end-users.
The following two cases also exemplify the growing trend of “guilt by association”:
“A Fort Lauderdale jury has awarded $7 million to [victim], 43, who was badly hurt when her car was hit broadside by a drunk driver six years ago. The drunk driver…who was 23 at the time, served nearly two years in prison. However, the ones being ordered to pay the bill are [company], which owned the sport utility vehicle [defendant] was driving, and [company], which leased it to him” (“Woman gets $7 million in DUI case,” AP/New York Times).
“[Last] month the mother of late National Football League star [name] went to court to blame various organizations for his death following a crash in which he had been speeding on an icy road without wearing a seat belt. The lawsuit names General Motors Corp. as a defendant as well as local ambulance service Emergency Providers Inc. and Liberty Hospital, both of which tried to save [NFL star] after the accident and may now have reason to be sorry they got near him” (“Derrick Thomas’ mother sues GM,” Jefferson City News-Tribune).
Many more examples could be cited to demonstrate the fact that we are indeed witnessing the disappearance of personal responsibility. We feel that enough evidence is presented here to give the reader a sense of the clear pattern that has been established in today’s society—a pattern that will only escalate as this age draws to a close.
As alluded to in one of the examples, one effect of this mindset is that already overloaded courts assume the additional burden of such cases, which are often championed by various advocates of consumers and “victims’” rights, as well as lawyers seeking to advance their own careers.
Time and again, jurisprudence is thrown out, in order to accommodate more publicly favorable positions. Common sense is exchanged for political correctness. Once a precedent is established, the vicious cycle is set in motion. “Victims” start lining up, ready to place the blame for all their problems on anyone and anything, in hopes of a “cash payoff.”
When and where did this problem start? The Bible, God’s Instruction Manual for mankind, shows that men have been playing “the blame game” for almost 6,000 years, ever since Adam and Eve’s wrong choice in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:6-7).
Notice how Adam and Eve answered God after they had sinned by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “And the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:12-13). Instead of admitting that they were wrong and taking personal responsibility for their sin, the first man and woman sought to vindicate themselves by pointing fingers.
This attitude was also evidenced in their first son, Cain, whose jealousy and anger led him to murder his brother Abel. Cain’s justification of his own actions probably started with the rationale, “If Abel’s sacrifice hadn’t been better than mine, I wouldn’t have had to kill him.”
Millennia later, after the Israelites had sinned against God by worshipping a golden calf during their encampment at Mt. Sinai, Aaron’s defense before Moses was, “You know how the people are, they insisted that I make them an idol…So we melted some gold and out popped this calf.”
Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Aaron blamed the people for his own failure to exercise proper leadership, even going so far as to suggest that the molten idol had somehow formed itself (Ex. 32:22-24).
Whether blaming fast-food chains for their obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or general bad health—or blaming tobacco companies for their cancer, smoker’s cough, lack of self-control, etc., human beings have mastered the art of “guilt management” and self-justification.
We must ask: Why do people always seek to blame others for their problems or shortcomings, or to clear themselves of wrongdoing when they are obviously at fault? What is it about their human nature that causes them to seek self-justification, and avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions?
Notice Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart [mind] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The human mind has the natural tendency to paint oneself in the best possible light. As this verse shows, this results from an art that all have mastered—self-deception. This makes it easy to blame others for the negative consequences of one’s own actions.
Proverbs 21:2 further demonstrates the human tendency to whitewash oneself: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…” These verses show why we see a growing trend of self-acquittal and resultant finger-pointing.
How does one come to the point of not blaming others for the negative results of his own actions, and having the willingness to accept personal responsibility? It is a process that involves honest self-examination, and admitting “…that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). This can only begin after one stops justifying his actions. (Notice Job 9:20; Luke 10:29; 16:15.)
One must then look to God and pray, as did King David, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psa. 51:2). Only after acknowledging his own faults and beginning to take personal responsibility for his own actions, giving “credit where credit is due,” can one start down the path toward truly overcoming (Rev. 3:21)!