I don’t know what it is about this week but it seemed like the whole week, responsibility was emphasized to me over and over again. It was a theme that ran through all strings of relationships –between co-workers, between org mates, between business partners, between friends.
It started on Friday last week when my org mates and I got into some issues of misunderstanding about a project we were all supposed to work on. For two Saturdays of every month, we conduct an advocacy project that aims to teach children (out-of-school youth, students) English lessons. Over the course of 4 Saturdays, the group determined that we needed to incorporate values formation in our lessons. We each had rotations of our assigned teaching period with the kids and for that Saturday, it was me and four others. Two Saturdays before that, we already conducted the first part of our values formation lesson. Since there were only three of us available at that time, I took the initiative to lead the lesson and I focused on a Bible story, the Good Samaritan.
Now last Friday was a different story. We received a text message from our org president Jackie asking if we had already done all preparations for Saturday’s lesson. Now that week wasn’t a good one for me. I was preoccupied with work and with deadlines and I honestly didn’t have time to prepare anything. In fact, I overlooked it and was only reminded because of the text message. I admitted to Jackie that I was not able to prepare anything and that I also would be not be able to attend the class because of work. I asked instead if we can postpone it to next Saturday which will give ample time of preparation for everyone. Eventually, it was found out that not one of the four others also did any preparations. No coordination took place among the five of us and eventually, a blame game ensued. The end result was very upsetting. The four others agreed that the fault was on Jackie and another friend who was the project chair. From what I gathered, the four others plus everyone else in our org seemed to agree that very little instruction was given to them in terms of what was supposed to be prepared, who was supposed to do what, and all that.
I was in disbelief. How did it happen that responsibility shifted from us –who were originally supposed to have done our preparations, to Jackie and Tereh, who have been doing their responsibilities by reminding us? Shouldn’t the fault be on those who didn’t do anything? I felt for her because blaming other people seemed like the easiest way out to skirt responsibility or even accept your own faults. Why couldn’t the group just admit that we were all lacking and none of us did anything at all? If we were not able to do our tasks, the fault falls on us and not on anybody else. It was that simple.
The second example this week had to do with my friend’s sad and traumatic experience. When she was in Manila for a short visit, something unwanted happened. The uncle she trusted almost violated her and when she relayed the story to me, she was visibly traumatized. Now as is the case of all sexual abuses, the victim is in a state of powerlessness and eventually blames herself over the incident. “Why did I go there? I should have seen the red flags.” Over and over, I heard her say that she felt so guilty and I had to stop her from thinking this way. The blame is never on the victim, but on the abuser. It was not like she went there thinking something would happen. She trusted an uncle –not some stranger. She trusted a good, family friend who was like a grandfather to her. How can blame be hers?
It is of course, easier said than done. It has been almost four days since she shared with me, and she is still in a state of shock and depression. My fear is that she would spiral into deeper depression as she tries to cope with this experience. The worst part was when she shared the story with her mom. Her mom, who should be her protector, responded passively. “Don’t say anything, you might cause their marriage to crumble.” “Just forgive him and move on.” “Don’t ruin other people’s lives.”
How could a mother say those things to her own daughter? It reminded me so much of David and Tamar’s story which I wrote a few years back. The passivity of David was a fatal mistake. I felt for my friend because instead of being encouraged and supported by her own mother, she was discouraged to speak and to “forgive”, as if it could be done on a whim. Don’t ruin other people’s lives? Then what about her own daughter’s life? Who is supposed to help her heal? What about her own suffering? Should she sit and suffer silently while her perpetrator gets away unscathed? What responsibility does her mother have for her daughter’s well-being? What responsibility does that uncle have for my friend’s pain? And why should my friend carry the responsibility of someone’s evil actions?
The third example this week happened this morning. Our vehicle was on repair for a whole week because of an accident that took place about two months ago. The insurance company was only able to work everything out a couple weeks back and so we were expecting the vehicle to be released yesterday. The service manager of our car dealer called me this morning to say that the vehicle is ready for release but could not yet be released to us because our insurance has failed to settle the bill. When she finished explaining to me, I only had one point to tell her: we have done our responsibility with our insurance provider by paying the amount in full. It is NOT our problem that the insurance company has not settled with them. That is an internal arrangement they will have to make with the insurance company. They gave us a commitment to finish the repair job by yesterday (as of writing, they are delayed in its release) and they should see through that commitment because on our end –everything has already been accomplished.
So I told the service manager that payment for this claim isn’t on us but on our insurance. And since they have had two weeks of coordination with our insurance provider, then it is just a matter of coordinating more closely as to when the financial aspects will be delivered. But the client? Out of the discussion. The client has no other responsibility to them except to pay for the participation fee, which we have no objections to.
In every aspect of our life and in all relationships, there will always be responsibilities. Conflict arises when we fail to uphold these responsibilities, as in the case of broken homes. Not just the father or the mother but everyone has a responsibility to keep the home –to keep its peace, to strengthen it, to protect it. A father who is always absent would later on find out why his children are straying away or getting lured into drugs or alcohol or other bad influences. But children also have a choice to spiral down or propel upward and become responsible adults. Instead of rebelling, being good, responsible children. (not always easy, but I look at my example and thank God for how he has upheld my sisters and me). Businesses fail between partners because one or both do not keep their commitments. Friends fall by the wayside because one or both did not uphold their responsibilities to be honest with each other, to keep the communication lines, even to look out for each other.
This week, I was shown a glimpse of the price one pays for not owning up to their own faults, and for skirting responsibilities. I am led to become even more intentional to my friends and family. The responsibility to love and care for them falls on no one but on us. The irony of it is that it shouldn’t even feel like a responsibility or a duty, but an outpour of one’s own heart.
The thing that weighs on me heavily is my friend’s situation and how to be there for her as she heals from this experience. I was reading Yancey’s “Where is God when it hurts” while I was waiting in line for 10 hours to get my voter registration the other day. It seemed like even the book was picked out divinely as it gave me some advice on how to deal with pain –for myself, for others. The best and surest way to help others cope with pain is to show that you love them. Perfect love casts out fear –the fear of abandonment, of loneliness, of depression and guilt.
And this week, I just learned to trust God for the things that are beyond our control. Some things fall on our lap which we have to be responsible for, but all else fall on His and nothing ever escapes his notice. He doesn’t just watch as things happen. He is at work, constantly. Evil things happen because of sin and we don’t always have an answer for why it had to be us, or one of our friends. But God is powerful and gracious and real. He works in the lives of His people and will work in and through us so we can also help others.
Most importantly, God is a Redeeming God. He heals us and saves us when we cannot that do for ourselves. He takes the responsibility for us and our responsibility to him? To trust him, to submit to Him and His good and perfect plan for our lives.