The common denominator to all life’s problems is….wait for it….Y-O-U!
In order to better understand where all this is coming from I’ll give a brief backstory to help shape the context.
I play in a basketball league on Tuesday nights at a church. There are several implied underlying factors within the fact that this league is ran by a church, probably the largest being mutual respect or at the very least appropriate behavior. Interestingly enough I have found that any sort of strength a situation can offer can be twisted or mismanaged in such a way that it quickly becomes detrimental. The strength and main reason I got involved was to meet new people who shared an interest, basketball. The strength is meeting new people who are very different from you. The flip side of that coin is that new people offer new opportunities for differences and furthermore disagreements. In basketball specifically there are tons of disagreements, about calls a ref should or shouldn’t make or did or didn’t make, zone or man defense, and sometimes even as essential as to team structure. Most recently I have found one individual on this team disagrees with everyone on about everything, to the point of not even being willing to listen to his teammates. Long story short, this guy, who is a heck of an athlete, basically tries to run a one man show, which understandably chokes the life out of the team. Going back to this league being ran by a church it is equally understandable that we don’t want to confront or hurt anyone’s feelings about this so we speak in generalities. So instead of saying, you are a ball hog and don’t pass the ball when you have open teammates we say we need to move the ball better as a team, hoping that the generality will hit home with a person individually. The ultimate hope of all of this is that each individual will take personal responsibility for what they are capable of controlling and adjust accordingly. We were having a particularly horrible game recently and at the half when we were discussing the game everyone was talking about bad calls and other external factors, no one was owning up to anything. Of course the one person we wanted to talk directly to didn’t internalize our generalized statements and continued his play, which was detrimental to the team. At the climax of the night, after being frustrated with everything else, including refs not making the calls he wanted, he just snapped, drawing two technical fouls and even threatening the ref. All this in a church league. After being ejected and asked to not return to the league, understandably so, the dude was still going on and on about how this was everyone else’s fault. We finished the game by apologizing to everyone else for our (former) teammates’ attitude and behavior and getting blown out by 20.
Unfortunately, all too often, I have found that personal responsibility is treated like a foreign concept in our culture. Think about all the situations you can where you have the opportunity to take responsibility in a moment. The possibilities and opportunities are endless. Whether it is as simple as returning the shopping cart to return bin or complex as owning up to your end of the dilemmas in a broken relationship, taking personal responsibility opportunities are everywhere. Now, back to our little church league rift. In every situation accepting personal responsibility is the best route because after all the only control an individual has is that over themselves. Everything external is an uncontrollable variable. The ideology that one can control external variables is a divisive illusion that leads many to unhealthy and detrimental behavior. After apologizing profusely to the pastor of the recreational department I made a statement that has stuck with me since leaving the gym, “He’ll learn in life it is always easiest and best to stop pointing fingers and start internalizing things.” The gist of this thought is pretty simple, stop blaming everyone and everything else for what you are responsible for, how you react and interact with the environment in which you find yourself.
Young people especially will have a very rough life if they go through it blaming external, uncontrollable variables for what they can actually control, their own attitudes and behaviors. In the case of my former teammate he was getting angrier and angrier because he felt he was getting fouled when he took the ball in on 3 defenders and wasn’t receiving the calls from the refs. Instead of taking the responsibility for himself and logically considering 1 on 3 wasn’t a good matchup and trying a different approach to avoid putting himself in a situation where he wasn’t getting what he wanted leading to frustrations he decided to continue in the same behaviors expecting others to change. This is a horrible formula for success, one that actually doesn’t work. Even as he was being tossed out of the gym he was spewing tactless words and accusations of others mistakes. Never once did he accept any kind of responsibility. I’d imagine that he still thinks he was in the right. This is a nasty way of thinking that leads to equally nasty behavior. This refusal to accept personal responsibility ultimately caused him to lose control because he was attempting to control that which he could not, others. This is a great lesson to be applied to any other aspect of life as well. You cannot control external variables and to attempt to do so will lead to you losing control of yourself. It is true that the common denominator in all of life’s problems is you. Accepting personal responsibility in life isn’t something to be overlooked, otherwise we end up getting kicked out of all of life’s proverbial games, much like our angry teammate did.