This is taken from the book I am writing. It felt too timely not to share. Thank you for reading!
I was homeschooled. This declaration is usually ensued by statements such as “You don’t seem homeschooled” (to which I breathe a huge sigh of relief) or “How did you ever socialize with other people?” (to which I roll my eyes as discreetly as possible and utter a quick “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” While the vast majority of my homeschooling years, kindergarten through ninth grade, were wonderful, there were some trying days and weeks. When your mother is also your teacher, let’s just say things can get rather intense.
Recently though, I’ve discovered I may have been more of a difficult student than I thought. In my pea-sized juvenile brain, I was the quintessential daughter and student, and any mishap or mistake was definitely my mom’s fault, not mine. I realize now how ridiculously flawed this logic is, but I believe we are more prone to this way of thinking than you might think.
I spent much of my day in the school room, also known as the kitchen, poring over textbooks and drinking voraciously from the fire hydrant of learning. I was a regular John-Boy, reading and dipping my fountain pen in my inkwell, gliding across papyrus pages, bringing stories to life… well, maybe it wasn’t quite like that. More accurately, I was sitting in the kitchen, watching the oven clock like a hawk, waiting for lunch, thinking public school sounded like loads of fun.
My lone companion during those long hours at the kitchen table was my beloved Saxon math book. After I labored over each problem for what felt like an eternity, I would turn it in to my teacher to grade. Mom would fetch her sparkly gel pen to grade it, because she thought metallic ink would soften the blow when I failed the lesson. I waited with baited breath as her eye traveled over each problem, each number. I have experienced stress in my life, but there is no stress like standing over your mother’s shoulder while she grades your math work. In those precious few minutes, your life hangs in the balance. I watched as the pink pen with streaks glitter brushed over numbers eleven, twelve and thirteen with its deceptively friendly-looking x. I lifted my hands in despair and asked God why bad things happened to good people as Mom handed me back my paper. I missed too many. I would have to redo the lesson. Instead of accepting my lot and trotting back to the kitchen to begin anew, my favorite response was this: “Hmmmm. Well the answer book must be wrong.”
Once upon a time, many moons ago, we discovered the all powerful solution’s manual was indeed flawed. One problem in one lesson in one book. This happened one time. It was the greatest day of my life. Suddenly, I could question everything. All the answers could be wrong, for all we knew. Saxon Math could no longer be trusted. Mom reminded me I was probably wrong, and my record was considerably more marred than the answer book’s, but I would have none of it.
How often do we blame the answer book when we got the problem wrong? How easy is it to assume someone else is responsible for our mistake. Placing blame is easy. Assuming responsibility requires maturity.
Once we reach adulthood, blaming it on the answer book sounds a little more like “She made me do it” or “If he were nicer, I would submit,” or I failed that class because the professor was stupid.”
Our list of excuses is exhaustive and often quite rational. Blaming other people is trendy and taking personal responsibility for your own mistakes has become old fashioned and prosaic.
I don’t want to live my life in a state of blame, because that’s the very definition of powerlessness. When it’s always someone else’s fault, it’s never my fault, and therefore my circumstances can never change unless someone changes them for me.
As I am writing this chapter, our nation is in such a fractured place. It feels as though we are literally split down the middle, and we stand on opposite sides of an invisible line, spewing hate and blame and accusations about the character of political figures we have never met. We are too busy blaming the answer book and we have failed to see the error lies within ourselves. If we are not at peace, we must look within ourselves before blaming the answer book, our spouse, our friends, our church and especially our political system.
I cannot take responsibility for anyone but me, and today, I take that responsibility. I choose to examine my own heart before I tell someone they are the cause of my problem. I behold the log in my eye before I look at the needle in yours. I start with me, because honestly, that should keep me busy for the rest of my life.