The last time we came to work late, was it the traffic or the weather that we blamed? Or was it the alarm clock’s fault for it didn’t go off? Ahh, the battery of the cellphone went dead.
When we had a break-up with a lover (or a major falling out with a friend), who did we blame? Ourselves or the other party?
Whenever something goes wrong, seldom or rarely (or is it never?) do we hold ourselves responsible for it. We always point our finger at something or hold others accountable. When things don’t turn the way we expect them to, we are always ready to check our blame list to find somebody or something to put the liability on.
This reminds me of one of the narratives of Jim Rohn.* He said that one day he was asked by his mentor Earl Shoaff, “Jim just out of curiosity tell me how come you haven’t done well up until now?” What Mr. Rohn did, according to him, for him not to look too bad, was read on his list of why he wasn’t looking good and not doing well. He blamed, among other things, the government, weather, traffic, company policies, negative relatives, cynical neighbors, economy, and community.
What about our personal blame lists? Is it as long Mr. Rohn’s. Perhaps it’s longer.
Who do people who could not find jobs blame? Of course the favorite whipping boy – the government. They contend that it is the duty of the government to create job opportunities for them. That is true. But work is something that is not going to be awarded to anybody on a silver platter. We have to search for it and we ought to be prepared. It is our responsibility to get ourselves ready for employment. Get the required education or training. We need to have the necessary knowledge and skills.
What if you could not get the education and training you need? Well, whose fault? Okay, I will give you time to check your blame list.
Now let’s continue.
Common sense will tell us that the government cannot possibly provide each citizen with a job. It is also impossible for the private sector to employ everybody. That’s just the reality. Harsh it may be. So, what should we do? Simple – be competitive. Be the best in your field or profession. The best ones are always on top of the priority lists of prospective employers. And if in our respective countries there are no job opportunities, or we won’t get the salary we want, let’s consider applying for work overseas. If you’re not satisfied where you are, go somewhere else.
“You can always move out from where you are now to find yourselves better opportunities. You’re not a tree.” That’s also from Mr. Rohn.
The ones who won’t get employed, or do not want to work for others because they have better plans for themselves, could perhaps succeed as entrepreneurs. Not everybody is trained to be in a workplace and be someone else’s employee. Some of us will be farmers, or fishermen, or plumbers, or drivers, or gardeners. There is always a way to earn an honest living. Whatever it is that we find as a source of livelihood, let’s us be thankful.
Accept the reality that some are rich and some are poor. And hey, don’t blame the rich if they don’t want to help the poor. Don’t blame your rich siblings, friends, and neighbors if they don’t share with you their blessings. It’s either you work as hard as they did for you to have what they have or be content with what you are capable of having.
Just bear in mind that each of us has a choice to A – Be rich; B – Have the means to meet both ends and at least get extra cash to afford some luxuries in life; or C – Have 3 square meals a day. Yes, I consider A, B and C as choices. It’s up to us to decide what to aim at… which of the three would make us happy.
Some people live simple lives happy to be able to eat three times a day. Some set their ceilings high and sometimes even go through it. Each of us has a chance at A. Nobody would prevent us from wanting to become rich. But becoming that won’t be easy… unless you win millions in the lottery.
There are two ways to go (and robbing a bank is not one of them) for those who would aim at A – hope that you hit that lotto jackpot or work as hard and wisely as those who became millionaires and billionaires did.
And when you fail to be so… when you fail to achieve your dreams and realize your goals… blame no one.
People who suffer from setbacks and face adversities would more often than not blame their friends or family members – parents, siblings, children, spouses – citing lack of support. Let’s not forget that support is something that is given voluntarily. It is not an entitlement. We could say that it is the obligation of our loved ones to help us. But what if they are not capable of helping for just like us they also need help or they also have problems of their own?
Or what if they have the capacity to support but they won’t? That would bring us to another “don’t” aside from don’t blame. That is don’t expect. If we get support in the pursuit of our dreams and goals we should be thankful. If not, our fight goes on. It’s not the end of the world. We should always be ready to fight our battles alone.
And please, let’s not blame our parents also if we are not doing well in life. Let’s not accuse them of not paving the way for us and ensure that rolled in our paths to better lives is a red carpet. Whatever kind of parents we have (or had) – good or bad – they ceased to be in control of us and our future the moment we became capable of deciding for ourselves. The question is, “What did we do when we sat in the driver’s seat of our lives?” Did we do everything we could to ensure that we succeed in our endeavors? Or did we expect that success is like the manna that fell from heaven which the Israelites in the Exodus just freely picked up?
Remember the narrative of Mr. Rohn? It did not end after he made a litany of the reasons why he was not succeeding and who and what should be blamed for that. Mr. Shoaff patiently listened to him and at the end said the following, “Mr. Rohn, the problem with your list is you ain’t on it!”
Before Mr. Rohn decided to work for Mr. Shoaff, he tore off his old blame list and replaced it with a new one where he wrote the only reason for not doing good in life – “ME.”
Now, let’s review our personal blame lists? Are we included on it? Or we automatically assign fault to something or someone for the misfortunes and failures that befall us?
Something that we should understand and accept is whatever we have become, wherever we are in the socio-economic pyramid, and whatever we have and don’t have, are the results of all the decisions we made. Others may disagree but I believe that our destiny is the sum total of all our decisions and indecisions.
We disagree in our interpretation of destiny. Theists believe that whatever happens to us is the will of a supreme being. I also believe that God exists but I think that we chart our own destiny. He gave us the gift of volition so we could have the dignity to decide for ourselves.
So, if we are not succeeding in our endeavors, if we are not healthy, and if we are not happy, we only have ourselves to blame.
* Jim Rohn was a successful American entrepreneur and motivational speaker and his net worth before his death, according to estimates, was $500 million.
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good
we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
– William Shakespeare
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride are referred to in Christian teachings as the “seven deadly sins.” These, to the Roman Catholics, are the cardinal sins. If a person commits any of them, he is believed to be cut off from God’s grace.
Actually, the Bible does not specifically mention the concept “seven deadly sins.” But in Galatians 5: 16-19, fifteen acts of the sinful nature are identified – sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. Perhaps St. Gregory the Great, during his reign as Pope (590 – 640 AD), wanting to be concise, shortened that long list of capital vices.
All Christian faithful are being called upon to not commit those acts of the flesh. St Paul said that believers are free but he implored them not to use their freedom to indulge the flesh. That, definitely, is easier said than done.
I think St. Paul (who wrote the Galatians) and St. Gregory may have overlooked another human frailty that should have been added to the list of sins. There exists another spiritual infirmity that I believe should be considered as equally harmful as any of the deadly sins. It’s called self-doubt.
My proposition (that self-doubt be classified also as sin) may not be considered seriously. Many might even say it’s preposterous.
Is self-doubt just an ordinary flaw in a person’s character? Is it really a bit too much to consider it a sin? Is it not a serious offense – something that when committed could ruin a person’s life?
Allow me to argue my assertion that self-doubt is a sin. For those who do not believe in the concept of religion, think of self-doubt not as a sin but an injury you inflict upon yourselves.
In this article, we will define self-doubt, strictly, as “the feeling of not having confidence in yourself or your abilities.” The concept of doubt being discussed here does not refer to that philosophical function “to cast doubt.”
The definition above (the one before the disambiguation) makes self-doubt sound harmless – not something immoral or demonic that would make the moralists and bible scholars (both past and present) look at it as a sin. That’s probably the reason no religious movement, Christianity included, classified such human inadequacy as a sin. You might also refuse to accept that it is an injury you inflict upon yourself.
Self-doubt, however, is not as simple as it seems. This impotence of the human spirit has grave consequences not only to the person having it but to the family where he belongs and to the society where he lives. A person plagued by it will be less-productive or not productive at all and is definitely not going to contribute anything to his family and society.
In arguing that self-doubt is a sin (or a self-inflicted injury) it is important to review the nature of sin from a philosophical standpoint.
“Sin is said to be a moral evil” (O’Neil, 1912). This brings us to another question – what is evil? St. Thomas defines the word (evil) as a privation of form or order or due measure. “Evil implies a deficiency in perfection.”
Self-doubt is clearly an imperfection. It indicates the absence of confidence which is considered essential for a person’s well-being and is a requirement in the pursuit of what Abraham Maslow refers to in Psychology as “self-actualization” or achieving one’s full potential. Sin is a diversion from the perceived ideal order of human living (Hyde, 2018). A person doubting his capabilities veers away from becoming the best that they can be and reduces their chance of living life to the fullest.
It could be argued that there are a lot of other negative human characters that may indicate imperfections. But none is as damaging to the person as self-doubt. Something is wrong with a person if he lacks confidence and has a very low (or no) feeling of self-worth. These are conditions that may lead to failure and unhappiness.
In addition, philosophical or moral sin is a human act not in agreement with rational nature and right reason. (Hyde, 2018).
It is not considered reasonable to doubt one’s capabilities. It is a person’s moral obligation to believe in themselves. It is not right to think one would fail even without really trying. A person needs to have faith not only in God (if he happens to believe in one) but also in themselves.
Allowing self-doubt to reign is depriving the self of discovering one’s potentials. When a person decides to doubt themselves, they eradicate their ability to fulfill their goals and to achieve their dreams.
Failures are indeed impossible not to happen. But even if one fails in several attempts to succeed they should decide not to stop trying. There’s a long list of famous personalities (like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford) who had their share of failures but never gave up.
But is self-doubt a self-inflicted injury?
“Sin, also, wounds the nature of man.” This is what the Catholic teachings assert.
“Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body, and soul. It is one of the major obstacles to living the life that people truly deserve. This unhealthy food for the soul drags down a person’s spirit, crushes his ambitions, and prevents him from achieving all that he can (Thalk, 2013).
Doubt impedes a person’s development. It is the biggest roadblock to self-actualization. Self-doubt prevents people from becoming the best they could be, from realizing their full potentials, and from achieving their dreams. Shakespeare stressed, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Doubt could possibly kill more dreams than failure ever did.
Some degree of self-doubt is generally held to be normal. It can be helpful in some cases, as it often leads to introspection and enhanced performance. But it may require medical help when it becomes debilitating, affects daily function, or impedes performance at work or school (Self-doubt, n.d.).
There’s no immorality committed when one doubts himself. Why should it be then considered a sin?
This brings me to the last among my arguments to convince you that self-doubt is a sin.
A sin may either be a sin of commission or a sin of omission. Sins of commission are sins we commit by doing something we shouldn’t do and sins of omission are sins we commit by not doing something (Sins of Commission vs Sins of Omission, 2015). The seven deadly sins are all sins of commission except sloth.
Sloth – extreme laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents – is considered a sin of omission. I think self-doubt belongs to that category. If sloth made it to the list of the deadly sins, self-doubt should be there also.
“Self-doubt,” is just as damaging (perhaps more damaging) to a person than this sin called “sloth.” Actually, in some instances, a person’s failure to use his innate talents starts with his inability to believe what he is capable of doing.
I hope that the arguments I presented above about self-doubt are convincing enough that from this point on you would move as far away from it as possible.
Conquer your self-doubt and start to nurture self-belief which I think is the key component of the value system of the few men and women who scaled the heights of success.
Hyde, J. (2018). The book of sin: How to Save the World, UK: Soul Rocks Books
O’Neil, A.C. (1912). Sin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved October 24, 2020 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14004b.htm
Self-Doubt (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gootherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-doubt/
Sins of commission vs sins of omission (2015) Retrieved from https://www.revelation.co/2015/07/21/sins-of-commission-vs-sins-of omission/
Thalk, C. (2013). Self-doubt destroys the heart, mind, body and soul. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/self-doubt_b_2960936
One of my favorite poems is W.E. Henley’s “Invictus.” I read it for the first time in my literature class way back in college. That was the time when I started to ask a lot of questions about many things – not the way a curious child would but the way a young adult searching for a personal identity ought to. The poem impressed upon me a strong belief. It created a mind-set, a value that helped shaped who I am now – that a person is in-charge of his own destiny. That whatever (or whoever) a person becomes is the sum total of all the decisions he makes.
For me, the day a person says “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” is the day that he is embracing personal accountability. Thenceforth he becomes responsible for his words, thoughts, and actions and whatever decisions he makes he ought to own them. If he succeeds and becomes happy as a result of his decisions he will take the full credit and benefits. Conversely, should he fail, should he not succeed in his boldness to take on the challenges of life refusing help from anyone, he knows there’s nobody to blame, not even himself. He acknowledges that being self-sufficient is not a fault. Recognizing that each person has his own mountain to climb and that it is wrong to become an additional burden to anybody is a virtue, not a fault.
It is the person who makes himself a burden to his fellowmen that should be faulted. He should be faulted for not making himself personally accountable for his own life. He should be faulted for thinking that it is the responsibility of his fellowmen to help him. Yes, “no man is an island” but each person should think that nobody could force anyone to offer help. Helping is something that nobody could demand from anyone. It flows naturally from the generosity of a pure heart.
Believe that people know when somebody really needs help. The good-hearted among them would definitely offer a hand. However, they are also wise, they are capable of determining if the problems a person is facing resulted from his unwillingness to embrace personal accountability. They know if a person is stuck in a hole dug by his own laziness and vices. They know that that person does not deserve help. Never assume that generous people are dumb. No person should push himself to the edge because of his irresponsibility thinking that somebody would hold his hand before he falls to the bottom of regrets. Nobody might and he would come crashing down to his certain demise.
The person who acknowledges personal accountability blames neither himself nor anyone when he fails in his undertakings. Instead of falling into the deadly trap of the blame game, he tries to figure out what went wrong and learn from his mistakes. He considers failures as pathways to attainment. He won’t stop until he succeeds, no matter how many times he fails.
On the other hand, a person without it (personal accountability) blames not himself but others for all his failures. For whatever misfortunes he encounters it is always someone else’s fault. When he fails in his relationships, the other party is to be blamed for failing to satisfy the standards he set. When he resigns from his job, it’s because his co-workers and his boss suck. When he could not find a new job, he blames the government. Even for simple matters like coming late for an appointment he would put the blame on someone or something else – like the traffic and the weather.
Heaven forbid that he also blames his parents for their being poor (if his parents are) and their being unable to leave a fortune he could inherit. Heaven forbid that he blames his siblings and relatives, branding them selfish for not sharing their blessings to him.
The list of people and things he blames for his bad luck and adversities is so long but has forgotten to put himself on top of it.
It is not difficult to identify a person who is allergic to personal accountability. He is the one who whines at everything and whinges every time. He is never satisfied. His standards of excellence are so high that it seems none of the geniuses, past or present, could ever earn his approval.
For the person who lacks personal accountability there is always something wrong. The problem is he offers no solution to the wrongs and ills he sees. Compounding the dilemma is his strong sense of entitlement feeling that people around him should find a solution to his own problems. He is not satisfied not helping find solutions to problems, he also wants others to solve his own.
It is not obligatory for any person to offer solutions to all the wrongs and ills – to fight all evils. Voluntarism is a rare virtue. And if you’re not that somebody with a strong sense of personal accountability who would come forward to resolve the problems, if you could not offer a solution to the problems, please don’t add up to the problem. Be not the problem.
At least, each person is being called upon to tread the path of self-sufficiency. Take care of you own problems and don’t bother others for them, directly or indirectly. Self-sufficiency is the starting point to the journey to personal accountability.