As I was watching Intervention this week-end, Jeff VanVonderen popped off an absolutely brilliant explanation of why a lot of addicts don’t get better: Everyone around wants to help, but instead, ends up enabling their bad behavior:
What I am telling you today is that your health is the most important thing. You have to be well whether she ever gets well or not. As soon as Tiffany’s problem becomes Tiffany’s problem, then the odds are going to go up that she’ll get better. Because right now, she gets to have the problem and you get to have the pain and the consequences and everybody’s scratching their head, wondering why she doesn’t get better. The truth is, she doesn’t have to get better. Starting today she does.
Know what’s funny? This is the same thing our government does all the time.
People have personal problems which are sometimes the result of bad luck, sometimes as a result of their own behavior, and we make them everybody else’s problem.
Get fired from your job? We’ll give you two years’ worth of unemployment insurance. Cheat on your spouse and ruin your marriage? We’ll still let you have a no-fault divorce. Didn’t save any money for your retirement? We’ll pay out Social Security anyway. Have a kid out of wedlock? Have some food stamps, welfare, and subsidized housing. Did you hurt yourself misusing a product? Sue ‘em for damages. Did you make products that you can’t sell at a profit? Enjoy the government subsidy. Run your company into the ground? Have a bailout! It just goes on and on and on.
Moreover, when you point it out how this works, what happens? They find the exceptions to the rule: The one in a hundred person who had some terrible, unavoidable tragedy and they try to paint that person as the average. Suddenly, it’s not the person who has the problem who’s the issue; it’s the person who says, “Your problem should remain YOUR PROBLEM.”
In other words, we’ve set up a society where one person, group of people, or company has an issue, everybody else has to deal with the “pain and the consequences” of their screw-up, and then we scratch our heads and wonder why nobody seems to take any personal responsibility for anything anymore.
The answer to that is simple. As a society, we’ve bent over backwards to shield people from the consequences of their behavior and that has created a society teeming with irresponsible people. There’s only one to fix it and it’s not another government program. It’s letting people fail, letting people suffer the consequences of their own behavior, and not stepping in to keep people from having to take their medicine.