199 WORDS: What Would YOU Have Said?

I spoke in Ithaca, NY on “Personal Accountability” in Warren Hall to 100 Cornell University students. It was … surreal.

I took classes in Warren, graduating in 1980—and had never been back.

Afterward, student Joseph lamented, “Mr. Miller, it’d be difficult to use your ideas here because of ‘moral dependency’ … .”

Not knowing that phrase, I showed complete confusion, but he continued with a vocabulary 5x mine.

Finally, my old brain needed clarity like lungs need oxygen. I interjected, “Joseph, you’re saying you don’t want to play the victim but friends, peers, and the campus culture say you are a victim?”

Like the patient teacher observing his pupil’s comprehension, he exclaimed, “Now you’ve got it!”

A friend often uses the phrase, “I can’t even imagine,” so I’ll employ it here —

I can’t even imagine feeling compelled by others to hold a Pity Party, view life as unfair, be routinely offended, and play the victim.

I had no words.

Later, an old joke came to mind —

Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I lift my arms over my head.”


I failed Joseph by not being that blunt. If we meet again, I’ll say — “DON’T PLAY THE VICTIM!” ?

What would you have told Joseph?

Watch education expert, Joanna Williams, share her view of what’s happening in our schools today.


20 Responses

  1. I think what I would have said, “so you are letting everyone else do your thinking?” And then I would say, “you have learned so much but you know so little!” And then added, “Don’t let others think for you; you have a brain now use it!” Sadly though he probably wouldn’t have understood me.

  2. So many things have went through my mind with this, but I guess I would have looked at him and asked “Do you want to spend your life letting others dictate how you feel and what you are worth? If he would have said no, then I would have said “Then it starts today, to not be a sheep and follow the masses because sometimes the “M” is silent.” 🙂

  3. I believe Joseph has neglected the “Personal” in “Personal Accountability”. He’s letting others TELL him he’s a victim. Be accountable for your own behavior & beliefs. You’re the captain of your own ship!

  4. My dad would always say, “if your friends decided to jump off a bridge, would you?” he was driving home the message don’t do it just because your friends do it. Don’t hold the pity party just because your friends are doing it. Don’t be the victim just because your friends are doing it. It takes real backbone, real character to stand up in the face of peer pressure and say “That’s not right…”

    1. The exact same thought came to me as Joe said…and my Dad’s words ran right through my head – and I never jumped off the bridge with my friends!

  5. You may be victimized – ie, hurt, treated badly, born at the bottom, affected by things way beyond your control. But you do not have to BE the victim.

  6. I would have asked some questions, like,”How much personal satisfaction – ‘happiness’ – do you see among your peers? Are you happy/satisfied with your own life? What would it take for you/others to experience that?”

  7. SOunds like he was being educated as a Liberal instead of a Conservative. Conservatives find ways to solve a problem on their own and as others have noted, get it done. Liberals play the victim and want others to feel sympathy for their plight so they are not in charge of fixing the problem themselves. Pretty well sums up what is happening if we let our Schools and Politicians educate them on their values instead of parents.

  8. I’m thinking I’d ask, “Everybody has been “vicitimized.” But who benefits from you taking the identify of “victim?” and start the conversation. Politicians? Marketers? Fund raising organizations? etc.

  9. I’d start by saying thank you, Joseph, because until I read your comment, I didn’t have a name to put on a behavior that has become the rallying cry for generation Z. “Moral dependents” are defined as “a term for people who cannot solve problems by themselves. They are morally dependent on adults or other authorities to solve their problems”. Changing the culture starts by looking in the mirror and asking yourself, am I morally dependent? If yes, what do I want to do about it? Embracing the principles of personal accountability is a great start.

  10. Sometimes you just want to shake your head & walk away for a stiff drink or Starbucks brownie, or both. I think I would have needed both before I could have appropriately responded to that situation. And yes, I own that is not the ideal response!

  11. I would say that is the cruelest form of peer pressure. It is psychological manipulation to make you view the world in a paranoid and pessimistic way. It is robbing you of joy in your life. Just say “no”!

  12. Never has this philosophy been more relevant than today. It’s frustrating that so many others don’t see this as their path to success and positivity.

  13. Recently I heard something that really stuck with me, and I may have used it in your situation as well.

    “If you believe the only way your problems will be solved is for someone ELSE to take action, you’re a slave.”

    In his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, Robert Kiyosaki talks about how your brain operates differently when you ask it a question rather than give it a statement. When faced with a challenge that you’re not sure you can rise to, telling yourself “I can’t” will cause your brain to consider the task complete and quit working on it. However, if you instead ask “how can I?”, your brain will go to work, engaging the amazing power of your subconscious, and keep working towards a solution.

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