Chaplain's thought for the week
Revd Tom considers how important it is for young people to learn to take responsibility
This week in Senior School Chapel we have reflected upon the story of the ‘Fall’ in which Adam and Eve are tempted by a serpent to eat from the one tree which God has forbidden them not to touch. Although it is thousands of years old, it strikes me that the themes in this story are remarkably relevant for today: temptation, desire and contentment; failure, blame and responsibility.
When God comes along and asks the human beings whether they have eaten from the tree, the man does something very interesting: he tries to lay the blame on someone else! He says this: “The woman you gave me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate it.” He points an accusing finger elsewhere. He doesn’t take responsibility.
God asks the woman: “What have you done?” and she says, “The snake convinced me, and I ate.” She, too, points the finger of blame elsewhere and fails to take responsibility.
It is the easiest thing in the world to point the finger at other people when things go wrong: we’d much rather blame others than accept responsibility for our own actions, or even our own small part in failure. Yet it’s so important that we learn to accept the moments when we’ve gone wrong and hold our hands up.
Theodore Roosevelt said this: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.” What sound wisdom, which many of us do well to heed.
Once, in a land far away, there lived a Queen, who was not far from her last days. She had no children of her own, and needing to choose a successor, she called everyone in her court to gather before her. She insisted on everyone’s attendance, from the highest courtier to the lowest servant. Unfortunately, hard times had fallen on the Kingdom, and the treasury was in a parlous state: there was no more money, the buildings were in ruins, and many people in the land were near starvation.
Once everyone had gathered before her, the Queen asked each person who worked in the palace to account for their responsibility in the downfall of the land. As each person was asked, they were all quick to make excuses: “It’s not my fault – I’ve kept a close eye on the finances,” said the treasurer; “Don’t blame me – I only prepare the meals,” said the chef; “I have nothing to do with it – I focus on keeping my soldiers in fine form,” said the head of the army. Everyone had a good reason why the blame should not fall on them, until the young girl who cleaned the palace. “I’m terribly sorry, ma’am,” she said, “but I know that I share a large part of the blame. There are times you see when I’m so tired that I need to sit down from my duties, and I know that I don’t clean as well as I should. If the palace looked finer, things would not be in such a bad state. I will try harder from now on.”
The Queen rose to her feet. “My successor has been found,” she said. “Too many of you in the palace are blundering fools who wish to pass the blame onto others. Here is a girl who takes responsibility. One who can take responsibility for their mistakes can handle the responsibility of leadership.”