Personal Responsibility 101: Why Is It So Hard to Own Up to Our Mistakes? 1


There will be several postings on this – Pro 6:16  These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
Pro 6:17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
Pro 6:18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
Pro 6:19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

 

By Brett & Kate McKay

All this has been my fault. I asked more of my men than should have been asked of them.” –Robert E. Lee, after heavy Confederate losses at Pickett’s Charge

I had the opportunity and the information and I failed to make use of it. I don’t know what an inquest or a court of law would say, but I stand condemned in the court of my own conscience to be guilty of not preventing the Columbia disaster…The bottom line is that I failed to understand what I was being told; I failed to stand up and be counted. Therefore look no further; I am guilty of allowing the Columbia to crash.” –Launch Integration Manager N. Wayne Hale Jr., after the Columbia space shuttle explosion which killed seven astronauts

The stark honesty of these men in taking responsibility for their failures is striking, all the more so because similar statements are so rare. In recent years we have seen the heads of the nation’s corporations and banks testify before Congress as to their role, or rather lack thereof, in the implosion of the economy, and could only shake our heads as they passed the buck, admitted vaguely that “mistakes were made,” and yet failed to name anything specific for which they were personally at fault.

In our day-to-day lives, we all know folks who constantly blame their failures on everything but themselves. They were fired because their supervisor was jealous of them. They got dumped because their girlfriend is nuts. They failed an exam because the questions the professor asked were unfair. The dog hasn’t just eaten their homework – it’s devoured their whole lives.

Plenty of folks decry this shirking of personal responsibility, and declare that “people need to own up to their mistakes!” But what does this vague injunction really mean and how do you start doing it? Unfortunately, most people rarely go beyond the slogans, essentially saying:  “You should do this. Okay, now do it.”

Today we’re going to take a look the very real cognitive reasons for the difficulty in owning up to your mistakes. Understanding leads to greater awareness of the blind spots our brains develop as to when we’re at fault, and this awareness is the first step in learning to overcome them. As we explore this topic, we’ll come to see that while it’s awfully satisfying to point out the motes in others’ eyes, we all justify our failures to one degree or another.

Taking ownership of our mistakes and shortcomings requires both humility and courage; as such, it is one of the true hallmarks of mature manhood.

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