Friday, March 22, 2013

Taking responsibility

From today's Briefing:

I woke at 7 a.m. Tuesday, an entire hour late for a typical school day.
I sprinted from my bedroom to the kids’ hallway, half-singing, half-shouting, “Wake up! We’re late! Wake up! My alarm didn’t go off!”
I’ve regretted those five words ever since. Five words that shirked responsibility.
What I should have hollered was, “I didn’t set my alarm!”
It was my fault that we’d all overslept, easy to do in these early daylight saving days, when the sun doesn’t rise until we’re walking out the door. I had failed to turn on my alarm, an uncharacteristic oversight the night before, and my internal clock was snoozing.
Instead of taking responsibility for our super- rushed morning, I blamed the clock.
I didn’t set the record straight during the next 15 minutes because we were in hyperefficient mode. No time for chitchat when there’s barely time for breakfast or tying a pair of shoes. (Both children take pride in never once being tardy for school. Lollygagging was not an option.)
Full regret set in about an hour later, when I was at my desk at work, scanning news headlines online.
I read a little about the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. Two teen boys were found delinquent (similar to a guilty verdict in adult court) for raping an incapacitated teen girl. In the nonjury trial, the defense painted the victim as a liar and a flirt.
The defense argued that she had consented to the sexual contact. Judge Thomas Lipps ruled otherwise.
I also read about Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Men Against Abuse rally, set for Saturday morning at Dallas City Hall.
Rawlings is admirably crusading against domestic violence, imploring men to be real men and to keep violence at bay. He’s tackling a social disease that claims the lives of more than three women every day in the United States. Last year, 26 of those deaths were in Dallas.
Then I read about three cases of rape in less than a month in the Lake Highlands area.
I wonder how many of those violent offenders were raised by parents who refused to model responsibility? How many grew up in homes with adults who placed blame on circumstances or other people instead of owning their mistakes?
When you admit that you’re wrong, you’re one step closer to learning from your mistakes. Even better if you do it in front of children, who can learn firsthand the power of taking responsibility.
When you don’t admit to being wrong, when you constantly shift blame to other people or poor conditions, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to grow. You’re creating an alternate world in which you are the victim — and you’re minimizing the actual victim.
In the seemingly innocuous case of the alarm clock, there was no victim. No real harm was done. But the episode was a wake-up call for me, a reminder that words carry great weight and that little behaviors can, over time, create big problems.
When I said goodnight to the kids Tuesday night, we joked about our crazy, rushed morning. I admitted that I had forgotten to set my alarm the night before and that I was unlikely to make that mistake again soon.
I turned out their bedroom lights and prayed that they were paying attention.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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