A companion development of my moving from selfishness (now, less of the time) to selflessness (now, more of the time) involved my taking responsibility for my thoughts and feelings, my intentions and actions, in a word, for my responses to life. During much of my adolescent and (though I hate to admit it, honesty compels the confession) through my early adult years, I was fond (well, not fond, but, at the least, favored) blaming others.
During my periodic fits of self-pity about my shortcomings and failures, my parents were a prime target of my attempts to negate my accountability. Words of rebuke silently resounded in my mind (for rarely would I speak aloud, save in the privacy of my solitude): “You made me this way…” “If you hadn’t done (this or that negative thing), I wouldn’t have turned out this way” or “If you had done (this or that positive thing), I would be better!”
When that didn’t serve to alleviate my guilt for what I’d done that I ought not have done and what I’d not done that I ought to have done (and my shame for being one who did things he ought not and didn’t do things he ought), I always could aim my blame at that ubiquitous and uncontrollable trio of circumstance, chance, and change.
When that didn’t work, there always was God (whose omnipresent eternality made for an ever-available scapegoat!). In moments of greatest grief, I’d cry: If God is all-powerful, then God, allowing evil, can’t be good and if God is good, desiring the welfare of all, then God, unwilling or unable to restrain evil, can’t be God. (Yet, in railing at the heavens for the existence of evil, thus, raising theodicy’s age-old question and critique, at least I was focusing less on my personal worries and woes and more on the world’s sufferings amidst natural calamities of earthquake and tempest, plague and famine and the human-manufactured horrors of war, racism, and the like.)
Over (looking back, Lord, have mercy, it took a long) time, I now daily exercise a useful, faithful ability (behavioral muscle!). In the words of the trite phrase, I “know where others and I begin and end.” In the light of this self-differentiation, I readily can distinguish my responsibilities (and my abilities and liabilities) from those of others. Hence, I am less susceptible to falling prey to the dual temptations of the threat of tyranny in becoming an object, a victim of the unhealthy, unhelpful behaviors of others and the sense of superiority in taking charge of the happiness of others.
More to come…
 A paraphrase of the observation of the character Nickles in Archibald MacLeish’s modern retelling of the biblical Book of Job, J.B.: A Play in Verse (1958).