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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Diluting Personal Responsibility

Addicts have a terrible time with taking responsibility for anything except the maintenance of their addictions, and to that end they feel so obligated that they will do anything to anyone.  They will avoid admitting any kind of culpability for their actions, even when they are so outrageously wrong or evil that they themselves can't bear the sight of them.

Our modern society is quite helpful to the addict in this regard.  Many of our political and philosophical systems run on the 'blame game,' transferring guilt to some other group (which is always not 'us' or 'me') which is doing horrible things and needs to be stopped.

As participants in these systems of thought, we are constantly bombarded with notions that someone else is responsible for our problems, and our version of 'taking responsibility' in this case usually means controlling the actions of others.  We are told that holding power over others is good, especially if we want to make the world a better place for 'everyone.'

This assumes that the 'everyone' we are talking about like the world we are building for them.  We are often surprised when we find out that our paradise is another man's punishment!

Besides ignoring the wants and needs of others through our idealistic views cast from our own desires to have power, we often dodge responsibility by diluting its personal nature.  It is easier to think of this in terms of math.

If my idealism requires me to care for everyone in my county, then each person's individual concerns and needs will represent 1/1,000,000th of my total concern for other citizens.  If I have 300 acquaintances, then each of their complaints against me have a value of 1/300th of the total number of people who form my collective acquaintances and social relationships.  This makes it very easy to excuse one mistake or ignore one complaint.

We can also see that the pain of another person loses its value.  We can minimize it along with all the others.

Bureaucracies do this with their gradual expansion.  As they become more responsible for more people, the individual value of the people they serve decreases in proportion.

Spirituality requires a very different approach.  We must value everyone equally, and consider that our actions even if they harm only 1/300th of the people we know, we are still harming a person.  Someone has been pained by our actions, and so we must repent of those sins we cause to even a single person, even though the other 299 are not harmed.

After all, we ourselves are someone else's 1/300th.  Do we want to be treated as insignificant?  Do we want to be so easily dismissed?

It is hard for our minds to comprehend the individual suffering of each of a million people.  We shut down after only a few.  Yet, the path of recovery often requires us to walk through each of a thousand sins against others.

We cannot use the excuse of 'so many sins' to keep us away from the healing process that repentance brings.  Very often, it is overwhelming, which is why the 12 Steps relies so heavily on lists and inventories in order to help us track all these small events and not dilute their individual significance.

It can often be overwhelming to look at our daunting lists and think that all is hopeless.  It is not, if we ask for God's help.  He will keep us from being overwhelmed through the consolations of our sponsors and clergy who understand what we are trying to accomplish and can encourage us to take proper responsibility.

Once we learn to treat each person as a full 100% rather than a fraction, we will discover that our repentance has even greater meaning.  Each amends offered and received represents a totality unto itself. rather than experiencing fractions of God's grace, we find a completeness in each event.

Treating people as groups and fractions takes away our ability to experience the completeness of God's love.  Every person is made in His Image and Likeness, and so each person deserves 100% of our concern.

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