Failure to Accept Responsibility

You may ask yourself, Why would anyone not take responsibility for his or her actions? The answers, while often irrational, rest with the individual. All people who neglect to accept responsibility for their actions have justified the neglect in their minds. The refusal to accept responsibility is usually based in self-survival.

Some people refuse to take responsibility because they may lose money if they admit the truth about an action or mistake that could get them fired. Some people refuse to take responsibility because they may have to suffer physically at the hands of others if they admit their mistakes. Still others fear more harsh “punishments” if they accept responsibility, such as jail or prison time, divorce, or the loss of something valuable.

They become so blinded by the fear of the punishment that they refuse (or simply cannot) take the responsibility that could lead to the punishment. They are like the child who lies when he or she breaks the priceless antique Tiffany lamp. To accept responsibility for that action is too frightening to face.

The Twinkie Defense

A perfect example of neglect of responsibility came from California in the 1970s. One of the first public trials to use the “I'm not responsible for my actions” defense was the trial of San Francisco County Supervisor Daniel White. In 1978, White murdered Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, a member of the board of supervisors.

A year earlier, Harvey Milk had become the first openly gay politician in America. White was staunchly antigay and clashed with Milk on numerous occasions. White became so disgruntled that he resigned his position as supervisor after continued clashes with Milk. A short while later, White went to Mayor Moscone to rescind his resignation, but Moscone refused. This enraged White, a highly decorated Vietnam soldier, policeman, and fireman. He went to city hall, found Moscone and Milk, and shot them both to death with a .38 caliber revolver.

White's lawyers used the defense that his junk-food craze had led him to murder the two. They claimed that his senses had become clouded because of too much sugar. White became known as “the junk food assassin,” and his defense was called the “twinkie defense.” He served only five years in the Soledad State Prison before being released.

The “Stop Me Defense”

Another growing trend seems to be the “You should have stopped me” defense. Lawyers and defendants trying to shirk responsibility or pass the blame have used this more and more in court.

The illogical and irrational arguments go like this, “You knew I had a weakness for children, so you should have stopped me from being around any child.” “You knew that I was angry with John Doe and had rage toward him; therefore, you should have known that I was going to kill him, and you should have stopped me.”

The “stop me defense,” both in and out of the courtrooms, causes incalculable damage to all parties. It damages the real victims by negating their hurt or death, it damages the legal system because it forces a judge or jury to make the decision of responsibility for another person, and it damages the person using the argument because if they win, they will never be able to accept responsibility for their actions again.

The “twinkie defense” and the “stop me defense” are only two of the strategies used to force others to take the blame for someone else's actions. Your self-esteem rests in knowing who you are, what you value, and how you take responsibility for your own life and actions.

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