Volume 56: How “Able” Are You?

Posted on 06/28/2011


I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in American culture recently. So disturbing that I decided to drop my three cents on the matter. That trend is our penchant for finding external excuses for our misdeeds. Why is that? I mean, no one likes the feeling of having to apologize and/or atone for wrong doings; at the same time, it is the uncomfortable feeling that keeps us from committing the misdeeds in the first place, isn’t it? Now, we (and by “we” I mean American culture) are quick to find a culprit for everything that we do. If we’re unfaithful, we’re sex addicts. If we’re rude, selfish, and obnoxious, we’re depressed or bipolar. If we’re socially clueless or inept, we were bullied as kids. There always seems to be this external cause guiding our conscious choices. Choices, I might add, we were perfectly okay with until our indiscretion(s) were exposed. What happened to the “abilities” in our lives? In our culture? The abilities I’m referring to are account-ability and response-ability. These “abilities” are what used to be the foundation of our morality. They were the abilities that kept us grounded, and pushed us further along the evolutionary path. Those abilities are key in the maturation process and are tantamount tools for parents to teach the children. And yet, we are losing our abilities more and more each year. Yes account-ability, response-ability, and even sense-ability are eroding like a coastal shoreline during a hurricane. It definitely seems as if entertainers, athletes, politicians, and high-profile criminals have lost their abilities. The question I have is: How “Able” Are You?


In last week’s post, Know Thyself, I defined maturity as “requiring introspection, acknowledgement, accountability, humility, respect, and adaptability.” As you can see, there are other “abilities” that moves our morality meter. When I was in graduate school, I learned to walk the fine line between identifying and acknowledging the impetus of a client’s problem; to providing excuses for their maladjusted behavior(s). It was my response-ability to get them to understand that they have the ability to choose their own response to external stimuli – no matter what their original programming was. For example, for many years I tried to blame my selfish and irresponsible behavior on my alcoholic father and disrupted childhood. Identifying the source of my behavior was a gold mine for me because it became my personal dumping ground. I tried to dump as many of my unsavory traits onto my upbringing and my father. He was to blame for my lack of abilities. And yet, at the moment of realization, whose response-ability are my poor decisions? Does that fit the definition of maturity? Or, am I to blame for my lack of ability development?


You see, the introspection and acknowledgement portion of maturity requires that we assume response-ability for our own actions. Sometimes that means we have to accept unpleasant consequences. I believe that it is our inability to accept consequences that is contributing to the decline of morality in this country. So, when Tiger Woods’ multiple sexual partners are discovered, or Eric Benet cheats on Halle Berry, or Rep. Weiner sends pictures of himself to any woman he meets on the internet; they blame it on a “sexual addiction”. It’s ironic how they weren’t addicts before they had to face consequences for their misdeeds. Newt Gingrich blamed his multiple affairs on his “love for, and dedication to, this country.” Really? Immorality is being cast aside increasingly as we attempt to eschew the entanglements of consequences, while satisfying our amorous appetites. If we do not cultivate our abilities and learn to accept consequences, not only are we doing ourselves a disservice; but, more importantly, we are doing our children one as well.


This topic is extremely salient with me for two reasons. First, I have two children for which I have to try and provide examples. I have to help them develop and cultivate the very abilities undergirding our morality. Second, I work in an inner-city high school and I listen to teenagers regale us with more stories about how their deficiencies aren’t their fault. I’d never say this to them but, to a certain extent, they are correct. There is plenty of “fault” to go around. However, ultimately, it will be them and society that will have to bear the consequences of their diminished abilities. Consequences do not disappear. Someone eventually pays for a person’s lack of “ability”. Earlier, I asked the question, “How Able Are You?” Are you the “able” that follows response, account, and even sense? Or, are you the Able that bore the consequences of Cain?

That’s just my three cents…


“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”