“It’s Not My Fault!”—The Age of Excuses
CRASH! Little Johnny’s mother rushes into the kitchen to see what caused that horrendous noise. There, in pieces on the floor, lies the cookie jar. Johnny is standing there, awkwardly clutching a cookie in his hand and trying hard to look innocent at the same time. “It wasn’t my fault!” he blurts out.
PARENTS know all too well that children have a hard time taking responsibility for their own mistakes. But today’s adult society has the same problem. More and more people seem to believe that the lure of their own gratification is more than they can reasonably be expected to resist.
Consider, for example, the man who raped the same woman three times. He protested at his trial that he was the victim of his own male hormones; he had high levels of testosterone. He was acquitted. A politician who was caught lying blamed his perjury on an alcohol problem. A drug smuggler was acquitted after he claimed to be a victim of the “action-addict syndrome.”
According to U.S.News & World Report, more than 2,000 groups meet every week to counsel those who consider themselves to be sex or love addicts. Over 200 national organizations have patterned themselves on Alcoholics Anonymous to help the “victims” of other “addictions,” such as Batterers Anonymous, Gay Men’s Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Messies Anonymous, and Workaholics Anonymous.
Some experts endorse the idea that all these forms of destructive behavior may be addictive, but others are alarmed by this new addiction chic. As one psychologist put it: “Creating a world of addictive diseases may mean creating a world in which anything is excusable.” A psychotherapist cautions that once people label themselves as helpless victims of an addiction, they become much harder to treat; their excuse becomes part of their identity.
Dr. William Lee Wilbanks, a professor of criminal justice, asserts that the modern vogue with addiction therapy is all part of a four-word philosophy he calls the New Obscenity: “I cannot help myself.” He decries the “growing tendency in the scientific community to view human beings as objects who are acted upon by internal and external forces over which they have no control.” “This view,” he adds, “suggests that free-will plays little or no part in human behavior.”
Studies have suggested that the human will may have more influence over even the more traditional addictions than has been thought. For example, about 75 percent of heroin addicts fail in their attempts to quit the habit. But among the veterans of the Vietnam War, the success rate is much higher—nearly 90 percent are able to quit. Why? The drug is the same, the addiction identical. Could it be, as Wilbanks suggests, that “their value system and self-discipline helped them to ‘Say No’”? It is not that such things as chemical dependency or even an inborn tendency toward certain problems are not real. As Wilbanks puts it, such factors “may make the battle of temptation more difficult. But the battle is still winnable.”
It is indeed. The lure of instant gratification may be powerful, but it is not all-powerful. As the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has demonstrated worldwide, drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, gamblers, and homosexuals do not have to gratify their desires. With the use of their willpower and, more important, the help of God’s holy spirit, they can and do overcome their problems. Thus, regardless of what “experts” say, our Creator knows when we are responsible for our own actions. (Numbers 15:30, 31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) But he is also merciful. He never expects more of us than is reasonable, “remembering that we are dust.”—Psalm 103:14.