Shirking Responsibility

I wonder, is it within your nature and my nature to shirk responsibility?

Educators often complain that students don’t take sufficient responsibility for their mistakes. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re slow to accept responsibility for some of our unflattering actions. Too often, instead of admitting fault and applying ourselves to resolve problems, we expend energy trying to pin mistakes on others.

Example one. A friend’s son’s team lost a close football game this season “because the ref threw the game” as a result of a “vendetta” against the firey head coach. As the poor calls built up, the other coaches and my friend went nuts, and no surprise, the players complained mightily about the outcome long after the final whistle. Youth learn more from what we do than what we say, but in this case is was a combination of what was said and done. I told my friend the coaching staff taught a powerful lesson that day. When things don’t go your way, pin it on others. 

What if they had said, “Refs are human and make mistakes. Usually they balance out. If we had played as well as we’re capable, the game wouldn’t have been that close. We will not be the type of team that pins losses on the refs. We will take responsibility for tough losses. Now go congratulate the other team and remember the lesson of this game: if you let the other team hang around, anything can happen.”

Example two. Recently some college presidents have made noise about suing the investment teams that are managing their shrinking endowments. Here’s what I’d like to ask each of these presidents. Are you kidding me? These are the same investment teams that the presidents were praising the last few years for their double digit returns. News flash, markets go down. The lesson of 2008, sometimes a lot. Unless some of the investment teams were from the Madoff school of investing, and guaranteed annual gains, the presidents need to accept endowment losses without blaming their once golden money managers. 

Example three. From a distance it appears as if the gay marriage backers who opposed Prop 8 in California didn’t like the outcome and want a do-over. I know this controversy is white-hot and complex. What I don’t understand is how can any state allow propositions of questionable constitutional quality onto the ballot in the first place? Didn’t the state election commission ask “If the proposition passes, will it run afoul of the constitution?” Assuming the election commission was competent, I believe the opponents of Prop 8 should accept the fact that 52% of voters supported it and focus their energies on reversing the decision in the next election.

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