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Let’s take the blame when it’s ours to take

POSTED: December 2, 2009 8:48 a.m.

It was 40 years ago, about this time of year that I repented of my sins and was baptized. At 9, my list of sins paled in comparison to some of the whoppers I committed over the ensuing years.


I figured if I sinned once a day over that time, that is 14,600. There were some days I was in double digits.


But I am grateful that there is forgiveness and that’s all forgotten.


This is not about sin. It’s about how we “‘fess up” to stuff.


As a boy, I was in the hardware store and found an uncut key blank on the floor. I put it in my pocket. I didn’t get to the door before I felt guilty, turned around and brought it back to the clerk. I’m glad I did.


I didn’t go on Oprah and talk about it. I just gave it three sentences in a column. 


I don’t think for one second that folks should harbor bad things internally without talking about them. There are counselors and ministers who will gladly listen to someone’s innermost secrets without betraying their trust.


The timing of this is related to Oprah’s recent announcement that she is hanging up her microphone in two years. If you want to tell her something on national TV, you’re time is running out. 


I think part of the problem with all this nationally televised confessing is that most people want to blame somebody else. 


The great key monster didn’t make me pick up that key. I just did it, knew it was wrong and felt bad about it. It was nobody’s fault but my own.


I don’t watch Oprah that often, but I have watched enough that I understand that a lot of people who are sitting on her sofa are often venting at somebody else. Sometimes they’re in the audience.


I guess the Oprah show would run about 10 minutes every day if folks just came on and said, “I did it, I was wrong and I’m responsible.”


Folks want to blame their mama, the dog, an employer, the economy or anybody but themselves.  


Cartoonist Walt Kelly drew the strip “Pogo,” which was set in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. In one of his most profound moments, the character Pogo declared, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


I don’t think we should all walk around with our heads held down in shame.


But on the other end of that spectrum, we have no shame or regret.  


When I was a kid, I had a remote-controlled car. One day, I decided to see if it would drive across the hood of my mother’s car. It did. Then, it reached the end of the car and crashed in a hundred pieces onto the driveway. I didn’t get another one. 


Today, if a child breaks a toy, we rush right back to the 24-hour-a-day store and get another one. There is no regret or remorse. We get another one.


Then, we grow up and if we break the rules, we have no regret and work hard to pass the blame elsewhere.


Pogo was right.


Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is


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