“Who did it?”
Those were my dad’s famous words every time my brother or I got ourselves into a mess. It was his way of forcing us to fess up and take responsibility for our actions, whether they were intentional or accidents. I am so grateful for his and for my mom’s leadership in this because it shaped me into the person I am today.
Unfortunately, many in our American culture don’t ascribe to the same philosophy. When bad things happen, it’s somebody else’s fault. I saw this over and over when I taught in both public and private schools. Little Johnny reached over and pestered Little Roscoe, poking him in the arm with a pencil…over and over. Roscoe finally got fed up, grabbed Johnny’s pencil out of his hand, and broke it in two. Both boys got angry and red-faced, blaming the other. “He started it!” was a common refrain (and is just another reason why I homeschool instead of allowing my daughter to ‘learn’ how to behave from other kids!).
I wasn’t surprised at their behavior. After all, they were just seven years old and learning how to resolve conflict. What did startle me, though, was the attitude of many of my students’ parents. It gave me a window to their thinking, and what I saw was frightening.
In one circumstance I’ll never forget, a mom was incensed because her son kept getting into trouble. Rather than having her son take responsibility for his behavior, she shook her finger in my face and told me that I was “expecting too much” to make an eight year old stay seated in his seat. The child in question frequently got up out of his seat and wandered around the classroom — behavior that I might be able to overlook for a kinesthetic learner — except that he went around badgering other students while they tried to get their work done. In her view, it was my fault that her son was failing despite the fact that his failing grades were the result of not completing his classwork or his homework. It was my fault because I expected him to get his work done. No matter that twenty other students got their work done! She was unwilling to allow the school to get him some extra help and held a grudge against me because I had the audacity to give her child an “N” (for needs improvement) in behavior. This happened in a public school setting.
In another instance, a student with emotional difficulties was mainstreamed into my classroom. He was prone to physical outbursts like throwing chairs, overturning desks, and kicking teachers and other students when in the midst of a meltdown. My job was to recognize when a meltdown was coming on and attempt to diffuse it. The school district trained me in non-violent conflict resolution — which essentially means I was trained to put a child into a non-violent “hold” until help arrived. Remember, this is in a regular classroom! (Now do you see why I homeschool? How much learning went on for the other kids who were constantly walking on eggshells, wondering if Greg (not his real name) would have a good day or not.) Greg wanted to attend a field trip to the circus with the rest of the class. As a condition of his behavior modification, he had to meet several goals, set and agreed upon by me, his special ed teacher, and his parents. Greg did not meet those goals. Rather than holding him responsible, his parents appealed and asked that he be allowed to go on the field trip even though they themselves could not go with him.
The administration allowed him to go despite my objections. I feared for his own safety, for good reason. The sensory-rich atmosphere was too much for him to handle. He climbed up on top of the movie-theater-style seats and began running. His foot slipped and got caught where the seat met the back. Most children would allow an adult to help them remove a shoe and get untangled from the seat…but Greg had emotional issues and would not let anyone touch him. He kicked, he screamed, he totally lost control. The special ed teacher had to be found in the midst of the crowd because she was stronger than I was; I could not physically restrain him when he lost control in that way.
Who was responsible for this horrible event? I hold his parents responsible and the school administration for giving in to the parents. Where is Greg today? What did he learn? He learned that he didn’t have to meet his goals in order to get his reward. And he got put into an environment that was really too much for his senses to handle.
I saw an article in today’s newspaper about a local business that refuses the hire what are now called “Millennials.” These are the youngest generation now entering the workforce. Advertising executive Owen Hannay fired more than a dozen millennials over the course of the year 2006; subsequently, he stopped hiring them and turned to a consultant to help him and his staff understand how to work better with the younger set.
Their orientation is so different from Gen Xers, who were the latchkey kids and are self-starters. These kids are fabulous at building teams, but they’re challenged by responsibility and accountability.
There is a real problem in our country when our future leaders — those entering the workforce today — don’t have an internal sense of responsibility or accountability. Why did they get that way? They didn’t have parents who said, “Who did it?”
We are now a nation dealing with record numbers of murders, embezzlement, abortions, pornography, sexual assaults, identity theft, and fraud. Our culture lusts after news of Brittany Spear’s latest tale of woe. Third graders discuss whether or not a judge will give Brittany custody of her kids. Our elected officials are made up of drug offenders, DUI offenders, thieves, liars, and worse…and we keep electing them! Voter turn-out is dismal. We the people have no one to blame for the state of our nation than ourselves.
I can’t take responsibility for someone else’s mistake, but I can own up to my own. I can insist that my child own up to her own mistakes. As Christians, we can do much more to help heal our country. Hosea lamented over and over about Israel’s sins and the coming judgment on the people. We can learn much from him about how we can be restored:
In just a short time he will restore us,
so that we may live in his presence.
Oh, that we might know the LORD!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of the rains in early spring.
Then God says, in Hosea 7:
I want to heal Israel, but its sins are too great. Samaria is filled with liars. Thieves are on the inside and bandits on the outside! It’s people don’t realize that I am watching them. Their sinful deeds are all around them, and I see them all.
Can you see God saying that about America? Casting Crowns has a great song called “While You Were Sleeping” that addresses our current American state of mind:
United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we’re sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we’re lying in the dark
There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping
United States of America
Looks like another silent night
But there is hope! God has provided a way for healing. Take a look at 2 Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Though not an Israelite, I am a Gentile grafted onto the family tree…so yes, I am called by God’s name. Will you join me? Let’s humble ourselves and pray, seeking the Lord’s face, turning from everything wicked? If we do these as a nation, then we are promised that God will heal our land.
One thing’s for sure: we are definitely a land in need of healing. We are so sick with sin that most people can’t even see it! Wrong has become a “right.” Free speech is elevated above all other rights, unless you’re talking about speech that glorifies the Lord and his commands. We’re losing the freedom to speak about our Lord because we aren’t using it. We have dropped the ball and allowed our religious freedoms to be taken away, inch by inch.
Who did it?
Again, there is hope! Not only does the Lord promise to heal our land…but he loves us. His compassion for us and mercy towards us overflows if we will just reach out and accept it! From Hosea 11:
8 “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
or demolish you like Zeboiim?
My heart is torn within me,
and my compassion overflows.
9 No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
I will not completely destroy Israel,
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
I am the Holy One living among you,
and I will not come to destroy.
10 For someday the people will follow me.
I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
my people will return trembling from the west.