Will Smith, Jordan Peterson and our responsibility in dealing with adversity

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons @Gage Skidmore

Will Smith was imparting some wisdom on Instagram yesterday.

In talking about fault and responsibility, the actor/rapper said, “It don’t matter who’s fault it is that something is broken if it’s your responsibility to fix it.”

His point was that we can have challenges and difficulties in life that really aren’t our fault. They might be someone else’s fault. But as Smith went on to say, “As long as we’re pointing the finger and stuck in who’s fault something is, we’re jammed and trapped into victim mode. When you’re in victim mode, you’re stuck in suffering. The road to power is taking responsibility.”

He’s absolutely right.

So many people have different things they blame for their lives. A person didn’t get the opportunity, they didn’t have the upbringing, they don’t have the money, whatever it is. I’m not saying that those are illegitimate. Some people are absolutely dealt a bad hand. Some people might have a higher mountain to climb.

Is it fair?

No, it’s not, but what other option is there? To be bitter or to climb the mountain?

We can waste time and energy of blaming others. We don’t have control over the circumstances but we do have control over how we respond. And we can respond by always learning, growing, looking for ways to be opportunistic, to bless others and pay it forward. We can put ourselves in a position to be the blessing to someone else that we didn’t have when we needed it.

I’m reading the new book by Jordan Peterson “12 Rules for Life: an antidote for chaos.” In chapter 6, Peterson largely echoes Smith’s sentiment:

“Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better?”

Part of what I like about Peterson’s thoughts in that chapter are that we often do have more responsibility for circumstances we find ourselves in than we maybe want to believe.

When I would get my grades in school, if I didn’t do as well as I could have in a class, my dad would never get on my case about that. He’d ask, “Did you do the best you could?” And if I was being honest with myself, the answer was clearly that I had not. Otherwise I would have done better.

We all have things in our lives where we can ask that question. We might struggle in class or at work, “have I done the absolute best I could?” Because a lot of people struggle and languishing they’re also not doing their absolute best. And if you know the answer is no, that you haven’t, part of the reason why you’re not where you want to be: is you. And I don’t know if you’ll ever be successful in life if you never accept that.

I’ve talked to people who are so frustrated and demoralized by their jobs. But what are some of the things we did (or didn’t do) that put us in that position and not in another one?

We aren’t born into a caste systemic America. We have freedom.

We can be mad at the system, mad at God, mad at our parents, mad at a host of other things. Stop making excuses. As the Apostle Paul said, “When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Everyone has a cross to bear. The difficulties and challenges we have can be stones that weigh us down, or we can take those challenges and make the skills necessary to overcome our difficulties part of what makes us strong.

But stop making excuses. Take responsibility. Work hard. You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Be the change you wish to see in your own life. If you feel that there are a lot of bad decisions, a lot of times when you honestly didn’t do your absolute best, make today the first day when the patter stops in your life.


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