Sunday’s Wisdom #75: Responsibility and Hope

“I know you had a tough go of it when you were younger, but sooner or later you got to stop blaming your childhood. At some point, when you choose wrong over right, that’s on you.”
– Javier Esposito, Castle
Season 8, Episode 16, “Heartbreaker”

Many people who do wrong – which includes everybody – and especially those who do the most and the worst wrong, tend to try and justify themselves with their pasts. I had a terrible childhood, I was abused and damaged, I had to fight for my survival, etc. But everyone has some sort of sob story at some point, so that can only take us so far. Even then, even with our tragic pasts, some far more terrible than others, the fact remains: every time we choose to do wrong, we are responsible, and accountable, for our choice.

It’s a hard, unforgiving truth. Yet, it’s only in accepting responsibility that we can find forgiveness, both from those we have wronged, and from ourselves. We can never truly be free of our sins and crimes and mistakes so long as we try to avoid them, to pass the blame to someone else. Only in confronting our misdeeds head-on, refusing to run from them, and accepting them as our own, only then can we be free of them.

We have to own our mistakes in order to let them go.

It’s not easy, taking on the weight of our shame. It can sometimes hurt more than we can bear, so much that we want to take the easy way out, and we convince ourselves that’s the only way we can make things right. But that’s simply not true. We can’t make things right by doing more harm, even to someone who deserves it as richly as we believe we do. No, truly making things right involves sticking around, enduring the pain of consequences, and taking our lives into our own hands.

That’s the flip-side. If the world is responsible for everything, then we are powerless. But we are responsible for our bad choices, always, and that means we have the power to do better.

When Esposito says this line, he’s saying it to someone he’s loved, very much, for a long time. It’s not some callous, impersonal judgment of criminals, it’s a plea to the better nature of someone he knows and cares for.

It doesn’t always work, not if we’re too wrapped up in blaming the world for our own wrongdoings. But sometimes it does, if we’re open to it.

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