Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Piper Called...He's Demanding to Be Paid

Intent, or rather, the absence of intent, has been on my mind a lot lately.

Recently, it came to my attention that a family member who shall remain nameless, made the decision to get behind the wheel of his car and drive after getting very high on Ambien1 and/or liquor. When he came to his senses again, unfortunately, he found himself in a wee tiny bit of legal trouble. You know, because that's the kind of thing that happens when you get black out loaded and take out 5 miles of shrubbery and mailbox posts before rolling your vehicle.

Thankfully, no one - including the driver - was injured. The car was not so lucky.

He has absolutely no recollection of having been behind the wheel that night, he was that loaded.

But he doesn't understand what everyone is making such a fuss about.

What's the big deal? Why's everyone so mad? Why should he be in trouble when he didn't physically hurt anybody? It's not like he intended to hurt anyone! And even if he had injured someone, if he didn't intend to hurt anyone, why should there be any consequences to his actions? Unbelievably, now he feels persecuted, targeted, hurt and wronged, as we all call him out on his bullshit.

I wish I were kidding.

And I'm kind of at a loss for words in attempting to explain consequences of terrible decisions to someone who doesn't seem to comprehend that the lack of intent to cause harm doesn't excuse the fact that harm has been done - even if it wasn't bodily - regardless of whether he meant to or not. 

How do you convince someone that no matter the excuse, the justification, the explanation, the absence of intent - when you hurt someone because you made a bad choice, you just have. What's done is done. And the person or people you've hurt don't care what the excuse is they just want you to feel sorry, to be sorry, to say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong", and accept responsibility and the consequences of your actions?

I don't care why he thought it was OK to drive under the influence. I don't care what compelled him to think that it was OK. I don't want to hear excuses or explanations. What I want to hear is, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I accept that I was wrong and will do what I can to make amends as I accept the consequences of my actions."

Making excuses and then getting upset or defensive or hurt because the people he hurt are angry is like saying his feelings are the only feelings that matter. He's the only person that matters. It's all about him. 

But part of being a grown up is knowing that making a poor choice that is guaranteed to be hurtful to other people - knowing you have other, better choices that are much more sound (even if we don't like them) - is inexcusable. That sometimes the only option is to put other people ahead of your own selfish self. And if you don't, being grown up means knowing you'll pay for your self-centeredness in other ways...that there will be potentially long-lasting repercussions.

But how do I say that and make him understand?

I don't know. 

Hopefully I just did.

1: Who knew that was even a thing? I, myself, did not.


Graciewilde said...

Yeah - this doesn't make sense. I am wondering how this person got to be at least driving age w/o learning about personal responsibility. The mantra when my kids were growing up was "Make responsible choices" - and that includes knowing when to put other people above yourself. Stupid drinking and driving stuff - so much tragedy could have ensued. Your relative was lucky, very lucky.

Unknown said...

I wish that I could send this post as a letter to a number of important people and that it would matter.

Ernie Hendrix said...

It's unfortunate that there so many people who feel no sense of personal responsibility. I'm sure he didn't intend to hurt anyone or anything. But he didn't intend to NOT hurt anyone or anything or he wouldn't have driven impaired. Maybe some day he'll "man up" and learn responsibility but may be he won't. Not everyone does.

Masked Mom said...

As someone who works daily with alcoholics and addicts, I can assure you I thoroughly and utterly feel your pain on this one, Jane. My speeches on personal accountability and responsibility have evolved over the years--the crux of the one I pull out most often is that accepting responsibility and working to make better choices is really the only power we have as human beings. We may feel we are somehow letting ourselves off the hook by refusing to accept blame for our part in a situation, but what we are really doing is willingly giving up our greatest power.

Granted, it falls on deaf ears most of the time, but I think it has clicked for a couple of people and I like to comfort myself with the thought that even if most of them don't "get it" right away, maybe I helped to plant a seed. Maybe, hopefully, you have too.