The indelible grocery cart… When you leave the store with $300 worth of groceries (that you went in with the intention of buying one thing), do you put the cart back where it belongs? Or do you contribute to the parking lot chaos and unavailability of carts for the next person? For most of my life, I have been the latter type of person. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of the consequences, and I wasn’t intending to be rude to the store staff, to drivers, or to those in need of a cart. I was thinking about “me,” and how convenient it was for me. Or how I didn’t feel like walking all the way to and from the cart corral at the end of the parking lot when it was raining, snowing, or 100 degrees outside. I would think:


Well, that is their job… They are paid to round up all the carts; I’m just giving them something to do rather than sit around and chat with their buddies all day. And plus, they could use a little extra work, put some hair on their chest. I’m teaching them work ethic… how to be observant… how not to be lazy… how to work like they are making $50/hour on a $10/hour wage, which will help them to be successful in the future… I mean, I’m really actually contributing to society by helping build up the next generation of leaders… I’m a great person because I just helped teach these kids some valuable life lessons… I have permission to feel great about myself today because I am helping to mold society for the greater good… I am actually a model citizen…


But what I realized is that the things I was telling myself… were just ways of excusing myself from feeling guilty for doing the wrong thing. For being selfish. For being conceited and arrogant. In other words, I could relieve myself of the possibility of guilt and other related negative feelings if I could just find a reasonable explanation for why my (selfish) behavior is justifiable. I was putting in a lot of effort just to keep myself from feeling the discomfort of guilt. Rather, instead of feeling guilt, I could feel like a great person for contributing to society in positive ways (eh em… pride). 


Now imagine: this was not just about grocery carts for me. This was about a way of life. Whenever I would feel too lazy or selfish to do the right thing in any situation, I would figure out a way to dodge the guilt and shame attached to it by justifying, blaming, accusing, and denying. I would also do this in my personal relationships. Instead of taking personal responsibility for my words, actions, and behaviors/tendencies, I would deny, and when I could no longer deny and was backed into a corner, I would blameshift. “Well, I did that because YOU did XYZ.” A healthy reaction (in taking personal responsibility) would be to take some time to think about what we said/did, recognize where we were wrong, make apologies where necessary, and come up with an action plan of how to rewire my habits so as to not do the same thing again. 


Let me just say… It starts with the little things. He who is faithful in little will be given much, but he who is unfaithful in little will be given little. I can start forming healthy habits of taking personal responsibility when I choose not to make excuses for small things, but rather simply do the right thing at all times. Put the cart back, and maybe you won’t be so mentally drained and exhausted by the end of the day. Excuse-making takes so much more time and energy than walking to and fro the cart corral. 


Let NuWell counselors help you with this. They can show you how infectious this pattern actually is in your life– all the areas that it has seeped into, and how it has caused the demise and/or rotting of the relationships in your life. You can never have genuine relationships without learning to take personal responsibility, and you cannot take personal responsibility until you acknowledge there is a problem. Is there a problem? Well, the symptoms of the problem are highly visible in the small things… just put the cart back where it belongs.