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Are Others Responsible For the Things You Do?

Resized Image I saw this meme floating around Facebook: Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It's not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.

Although the meme writer means well, the meme is inaccurate. Yes, we are responsible for the choices we make but those choices are the result of the things we have been through in life. The way our parents treated us as children determines the choices we make later in life. Someone who is beaten with a whip every time they make a mistake will make different choices than someone who was never hit. A rape victim will make different choices when going out than someone who was never raped. A child who is ridiculed about their appearance will make different choices than a child who is never ridiculed by their parents.

If I walk up to someone and slap them in the face, their response would be to slap me back. Are they responsible for slapping me? Yes. Would they have made the choice to slap me if I hadn't slapped them? No. The choices we make are reactions to the things that happen to us. If different things had happened to us, then we would have made different choices. The meme lets people off the hook for the things they do to others. It means that abusive parents can be let off the hook for abusing their children because those children are responsible for their own actions, ignoring the fact that they would not have chosen those actions if they hadn't been abused.

If I am walking down the street and a man approaches me with a gun, then I run out of fear for my life, am I not supposed to be afraid to go out the next day out of fear that I might meet another person with a gun? Most people would be. Someone may choose to buy a gun themselves and carry it for protection. They may panic and shoot someone. Are they responsible for shooting that person? Of course. But what they did is a result of their encounter with the man with the gun. Had they not met him, the other events would not have happened. We are all responsible for our actions but so are the people who do things to us. They are also responsible for their actions and can never be allowed to ignore the impact that their actions have on others.

Everyone has to take responsibility for the things they do and say to others. Everyone. We have to think about how what we do will affect others. It is not fair to say that people who are abused are supposed to turn out okay, to turn out normal. It is not fair to tell people who have abused others that it's the victim's responsibility to not let the abuse affect them negatively. It is not fair to make parents blameless for the adults their children have become. The victims are responsible for their actions and choices but so are the perpetrators and the majority of the blame should be on the perpetrators because without them, the victims would not have made the choices they made.

The meme is basically saying: I can yell at you, beat you, stab you, cheat on you, do whatever I want to you and I am not to blame. You are. You are supposed to be strong enough to withstand the abuse and be okay. Losing your job is not supposed to affect you negatively. Your parents dying is not supposed to affect you negatively. Your spouse beating you up is not supposed to affect you negatively. You are supposed to magically get over all of it and be okay. That never happens. We are human beings and we will react negatively to negative things that happen to us.

Can we blame ourselves for the things we do in life? Yes. Can we also blame others for the things we do in life? Yes.

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