At what point do we become responsible for our own behaviour?

i started this one so long ago, you will find proper use of capital letters…


This is a question I have asked frequently since I was in my late teens.  In high school, I had the deluded view that once people ‘grew up’ there would be no more petty nonsensical disputes.  That adults get along with each other.  I was sorely mistaken.

Is there a particular age?  When I asked some students they threw out ages as high as 18.  My response was to ask if that meant no matter what they did between birth and 18, they should be exempted from any form of punishment.  Then they backtracked and said that maybe the age should be younger after all.

I could cite examples from a plethora of adult interactions but to try and save boring anyone I will stick to a few of the more poignant ones in my life.

When I was in my early 20s I rekindled a friendship with a long lost pal from my early teens.  We became close very quickly and soon began dating.  It got to the point where every interaction we shared involved hurt feelings.  We’re talking a number of incidents over time which involved his telling me to eff off or that my problems at work were not his concern.  There was also the time I walked in on him watching pornography.  This is not someone I speak to any more but I remember him distinctly saying that ‘people don’t think about how their behaviour affects others’.  I remember thinking he should consider his own advice.

I have thought about working with high risk adolescent males and despite the trauma they may have experienced previously, at what point are they to be held accountable for their, sometimes physically violent, actions?  Many people that had difficult times in their youth do not go on to harm others as they do.

The latest thoughts on this idea come from something I have learnt is called ‘projection’: when someone says things to you that are completely ridiculous and pertain to their behaviour, rather than the accusation that you are indeed the perpetrator of some offence.  It is something my Mum calls ‘crazy making’; wherein someone says and does things to make you think you have somehow wronged that individual.  Such accusations makes one question their own involvement and subsequent culpability, while the other person finds comfort in laying blame.

Why are some people unable to see the consequences of their behaviour?  Is it in order to absolve themselves of all responsibility?  Or do they simply not know what they are doing?

My conclusion is that as soon as one knows better they must do better, something Maya Angelou has spoken about, no matter the age.  I might be alone in this position.


One thought on “At what point do we become responsible for our own behaviour?

  1. hi mrs a, tony sent me mail to say lucy has resigned from boarding due to a health scare. unverified as yet and he will confirm. I wish I was with you lot.i get what you say in your post about responsibility. maybe the perpetrators are absolved becos they had a difficult life, but some of us are expected to be responsible even if we too had difficult lives. maybe that says that some people take responsibility and some choose not to, regardless of their difficult lives. Black and white? not possible. xjane

    Liked by 1 person

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