The Dirtiest 14-Letter Word

Teaching // April 20, 2018 //

Responsibility. It seems to be the “dirtiest” 14-letter word in the English language. Let’s face it, good examples of taking responsibility are hard to find in our culture. Recently, the United States Congress passed, and President Trump signed an omnibus spending bill totaling $1.3 trillion. Republicans and Democrats are responsible for drafting and passing this bill. So our federal government just assigned an additional $1 trillion on top of its $20 trillion existing debt.

Our government continues to spend money it doesn’t have without the intention and discipline to repay — without the responsibility to repay. Is it any wonder that the personal debt of individual Americans has exploded as well? Don’t have the money to pay for it now? Don’t worry, that’s what credit cards are for! Why shouldn’t we think this way since every year we see our Congress “charges up its credit card” far beyond the limit.

Responsibility, or the lack thereof, is as old as the Garden of Eden. God confronted Adam when he sinned by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis chapter three. Did Adam readily claim his responsibility? No! He blame-shifted onto his wife, Eve. And Eve, taking her cues from Adam, blame-shifted onto the serpent who had deceived her. This is how responsibility, at the earliest possible point in human history, became the dirtiest of words. “Who’s responsible around here?” “Don’t look at me!” “Me, neither!”

Since Adam and Eve, we have continued the legacy of not taking responsibility. We disavow responsibility reflexively, even thoughtlessly. I was recently reminded that we can disavow responsibility even in the important area of our own bodily health. I have a relative who had knee-replacement surgery. Her surgery went well. My relative’s chronic knee pain pre-surgery disappeared to her delight.

Then came the matter of physical therapy for her surgically replaced knee. She did not look forward to her physical therapy sessions. The sessions were hard for her. Over time, she started wondering aloud why her repaired knee wasn’t regaining full strength and mobility. When she talked to her therapists, they asked her if she was performing the same movements during her therapy sessions every day at home by herself. No, she wasn’t. She thought that her occasional therapy sessions constituted the entirety of physical therapy.

Her therapists kindly told her she needed to take responsibility for improving the condition of her knee by daily performing the exercises. You would have thought that the therapists were suddenly speaking a foreign language to my dear, sweet relative. “What? Responsibility? It’s really on me to strengthen my own knee?” Well… yes, it is.

Unfortunately, my relative has not been very diligent in performing her knee exercises on her own, and she still wonders why her knee isn’t as strong and flexible as she would like it to be. Just between you and me, my relative’s problem isn’t in her knee; the problem is in her head and the way she thinks about responsibility.

And the problem just isn’t in her head – it’s in your head and my head, too. Let’s all admit this fact: We are far more adept at spotting lack of responsibility in others than we are in ourselves. Most of the time we see others pretty clearly on the issue of responsibility.

Ourselves? Well, how blind are you? Because I can be pretty blind to this myself. How about if we vow to take on this spiritual growth challenge for the balance of 2018: I will grow by seeing myself more clearly and taking personal responsibility for what I (not someone else) am responsible. Do you need help in starting to think this way? What are you responsible for at home, school, work, and church, and with relatives and friends? Are you being asked or do you know that you need to take on more responsibility? Are you presently responsible to and for yourself? Great questions all. I will take responsibility by working through these questions for myself. How about you?

About Terry Montague

Terry Montague claims responsibility for everything that happens in adult ministries at Bethany Bible Church. If you have a problem with anything about adult ministries at Bethany, please contact Terry. He promises he won't blame-shift onto anyone!