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Accepting Responsibility

What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 42-44

Maybe it's just me, but over the last several years I've noticed a change in the American psyche.

When I was younger, it seemed that when something would go wrong; people were apt to step to the plate and accept responsibility for what had happened. Once someone accepted responsibility, it was easy to move on and try to figure out ways of getting back on track.

Today, it seems as if it's nearly impossible for folks to step to the plate and accept responsibility. We pour all of our energy into explaining why we (or our allies) aren't responsible for whatever problem exists. This means it takes longer and longer to get around to fixing problems because we spend more of our time and energy blaming others rather than examining ourselves and seeing what role we played in the developments.

I was particularly aware of this dynamic with the recent BP oil spill. Much energy early on was invested in trying to figure out who was to blame for the disaster. Was it the Obama Administrations fault for not responding sooner? Was it the BP Executives fault for not ensuring the safety of the rig? Was it the workers on the oil rig who were negligent? The list of parties individuals wanted to hold responsible for the event was nearly endless. About the only party left out of the blaming process was the American consumer – whose endless thirst for the consumption of oil drives the process in dangerous ways.

A good deal of the debate about who was responsible occurred while the oil was still spewing into the waters. That was a frightening reminder to me about our aversion to accepting responsibility and moving forward.

Thankfully, there are folks who break that cycle, step up to the plate and accept responsibility, and begin moving things along toward resolution. That's true now, and that was certainly true in the case of the story of Joseph and his brothers contained in today's reading.

For a good part of the story, Joseph's brothers had allowed themselves to fall into the blame game. They blamed their bad feelings toward Joseph on the fact that their father favored Joseph over them; they blamed Joseph and his arrogance for their decision to sell Joseph into slavery; and they even blamed God at points in the story when things unexpectedly turned up in their bags that weren't supposed to be there.

It took a while, but eventually they got around to accepting responsibility for their actions. When Joseph accused Benjamin of stealing the silver chalice, Judah – speaking on behalf of the brothers –said: "We're all in this together, the rest of us as guilty as the one with the chalice." In that moment of truth, the dynamic in the story FINALLY began to change.

As you move through your day today, pay attention to how you when things go off track. Is your first instinct to invest time and energy trying to figure out who is to blame; or are you able to step to the plate, figure out the ways in which you might have contributed to the situation so you are freed up to begin taking corrective action?

Til next time …

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