“Your account is past due, Mr. Phillips.” The voice on the phone was stern, almost judgmental.
I was speaking with the representative of a company with whom my music store does a fair amount of business. I need them; I assume that they need me. It doesn’t always follow. Evidently, this lady wasn’t concerned with my needs at this moment at all. She wanted the payment which I owed her employer. She was certain that her condescending tone was warranted.
I, on the other hand, had a different thought in mind. I pay my statement monthly with the company. A phone call to my credit rep and authorization to pay the balance of my account by credit card are usually enough to complete the transaction.
Not last month.
“Good morning!” the perky voice chimed. “How may I direct your call? Karen? No she doesn’t work for us anymore. You need to talk with Valerie. No. She’s not here right now. I’ll give you her voice mail.” Without waiting for a response, the perky voice was gone.
I left a message at the beep. Three weeks ago. No Valerie.
I tried to call Valerie today. Instead I talked with my new friend up above. Ms. Condescension, I think her name was.
All right, it was something else, but I wasn’t in a mood to remember it. I was a tiny bit defensive in my response.
“I tried to take care of this weeks ago! Valerie hasn’t called me back and…” My voice trailed off as I realized what I was doing.
I spoke again, turning in my mind to face the music. “That doesn’t matter, does it? I owe the money, let’s get this taken care of today.”
I like that phrase–face the music. I think it may have come originally from the theater, as nervous actors went onstage to deliver their lines. They were probably likely to want to face the wings, looking at the prompter there who could help them with their forgotten lines, if necessary.
Instead, those who understood their responsibility and their best course of action turned right toward the pit where the orchestra was playing the overture and thus, they were directly facing the audience. They belted out their lines and looked their worst critics (and biggest fans) straight in the face as they did it. No mumbled words towards the wings for these brave souls!
Face the music.
I wonder today if we understand the meaning of personal responsibility. I wonder how many of us realize that we ourselves hold the key to our performance. I’m not speaking of being the captain of our own ship, ignoring the fact that our times are in the hands of our Creator. I’m saying that each one of us personally has the responsibility to do what is right, independent of whatever is going on around us.
We live in a world gone mad. Able-bodied people live all of their lives on government assistance. Politicians point fingers and blame each other for gridlock. Students cheat and lie, defending themselves with still more lies. Pastors refuse to speak truth for fear that it will offend. None of it is my fault. You understand that, do you not?
None of it is my fault!
A mug was broken in the kitchen at my house yesterday. Our normal Sunday afternoon circus was coming to a close and the clowns had gone home with their parents. The Lovely Lady and I had moved most of the mess from the three rings into the kitchen nearby. My job was to rinse the dishes, while she put her puzzle working abilities to work in filling the dishwasher.
All of the sudden there was a loud crash and the tinkling of a thousand broken shards scattering across the hardwood floor. Reaching for a dinner plate, I had grazed the coffee mug and knocked it to the floor. My response was instantaneous. I was angry and disgusted. It was the first broken dish in the entire set. We’ll probably not find another one to replace it. I let out a cry of dismay and then I sulked.
Her response was almost as quick. “I’m sorry. That was my fault; I shouldn’t have left that stacked there.”
Do you see what she did? And I almost let her get away with it. For a moment, I was mollified, no longer disgusted with myself for my clumsiness–no longer thinking that I was responsible for breaking the first dish in the set.
For a moment.
“No. That was no one’s fault but my own. I knocked it off. I did it.”
We both agreed that it didn’t really matter. The broken cup, that is. Taking responsibility for breaking it? That was essential for me.
How about it? Whose fault is it that you’re upset by the things you see on television? Who’s to blame for the offensive things you read on Facebook? Who do you yell at when you are angry at the way the traffic is moving (or not moving)?
You hold the key.
You make the decisions of what you watch. You determine whose posts show up in your social media. You make up your mind about whether to react with anger or with patience.
Time to face the music.
There are more people in the audience watching you than just your friends, or other drivers, or people at work. Your children are watching–and learning. Those other folks? They’re watching and learning too. You may think it’s too late for them, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as too late.
Where there’s life, there’s hope.
Hey! The view from the stage isn’t bad either.
And, that tune they’re playing is kind of catchy.
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
(Bob Dylan ~ American singer/songwriter)
“He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
(Luke 18:13b ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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