In her farewell episode Oprah gave her goodbye lessons, all of which I believe are indeed important and true. One I particularly liked was that we are all 100% responsible for our own lives.
I could not help but notice the stark contrast between Oprah and the Casey Anthony trial. I heard Anthony's lame defense that Casey was sexually abused as a child and therefore was raised to lie and therefore did not tell anyone that her child had died as she spun a complex web of lies. When I heard it, I commented to a family member, "Oprah was sexually abused, I have a lot of clients who were sexually abused, I know people who were sexually abused and they don't lie, stuff their kids in trunks while they party, kill people, or party hearty when a family member dies." What a lame defense--not just by the attorneys, but by anyone! Whether or not the evidence points to guilt or not, the abdication of any responsibility is an all too frequent pattern for many people.
Sexual abuse is a horrible thing that has devastating effects on the victims, as is physical abuse. But it is not the abuse, or whatever horrible things have happened to you in life, that determine your life as an adult. YOU do. History does shape us and it can help us make sense of our own patterns, but history does not determine our behavior or excuse it. There are many people who have been horribly abused who use that experience to grow their own sensitivity, compassion for others, and determination to not let history create their present or future. Look at Oprah. I can look at clients and friends who were abused as children and are people of integrity. Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel and many other Holocaust survivors transcended unimaginable experiences to grow themselves and to help change the world.
None of us have such power that we can always prevent bad things from happening to us, but we do have the power to become a better human being out of that experience. We may go through very difficult times and have many emotions as a result. We may temporarily blame ourselves or others as we try to integrate the painful experience. We may be angry at everyone and everything for a period of time. As children we can develop patterns to survive that do not work in adulthood. But in time, we either use our experiences to grow ourselves beyond our survival patterns and our pain or to use it as a crutch and make ourselves perpetual 'victims' of life.
The same thing happens in marriage, partnerships and other relationships. It is so easy to point your finger at your partner or co-worker as 'the problem'. "He or she always does . . . . he or she never . . . ." And maybe he or she does or does not do things that are not helpful to connection and good relationship. They may even do things that are damaging. But relationships are created by two people. Sometimes you may contribute to the problem and not even realize it. But whatever he or she does or fails to do does not excuse you from trying to be the best human being and partner you can be no matter what decisions you have to make about your relationships. History and external events do not make you a 'victim', unless you make yourself a victim.
Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God, points us to a healthier and more adult approach to relationship and life:
The purpose of a relationship is to decide what part of yourself you'd like to see "show up," . . . ."Others do not determine what kind of person you are or how you behave. You do. And for that, as adults, we are 100% responsible every day.