As with all concepts, we look at “responsibility” through a lens. Many of us think of “taking responsibility” as doing what we should do, regardless of what we want to do. It’s doing what we think is “right.”
Others focus their efforts on responsibility for others, which sometimes is necessary (with children, for example), and sometimes becomes caretaking that robs them of self-responsibility.
Self-responsibility is nothing more or less than owning your life. Owning, for example, the aspects of your life you tend to avoid and let slide, and owning whatever mess results. It is taking responsibility for your unhappiness, and for living more of your potential.
Rather than “I can’t” (settling into deficiency) or “there isn’t any for me” (a deprivation story), or “I don’t really want it” (sour grapes/rationalization), or “this is good enough” (denying your deeper wants and callings), or blaming others for your suffering and feeling powerless to heal it (victimhood), you say, This is mine to shape. It is up to me what I make of this.
I once heard an anecdote in which Byron Katie told her daughter (the words are not exact) “I’m 100% responsible for your unhappiness, and you are 100% responsible for healing it.” At the time I was unimpressed. Why do you get to skip out on this? I now appreciate where she was coming from. In this case Katie (as she is known) is saying, “I messed up. The wounding is from me.” Yet she also understands that we each have to do our own healing.
In my therapy practice I work with people who were quite (legitimately) “wronged.” It is those who take responsibility for their healing who get better. Having been injured or traumatized by a situation can lead to passive helplessness if we’re not careful.
Sometimes we do need to blame—temporarily. This happens as we see the impacts of others’ neglectful or abusive or unskillful behavior. The greatest value is in stepping out of self-blame. Yet we also need to empower ourselves to shape our own lives.
Responsibility = response ability. It is the ability to respond and to shape our circumstances. Without this, we remain victims. Disempowered. Bitter. Abandoning our own potential.
In interpersonal conflicts, taking responsibility means “owning our stuff,” seeing how we contribute to a problem. It also means being an active part of the solution.
Taking responsibility is not waiting for someone else to rescue you or make it better.
Taking responsibility is being in charge of your life. It is deciding how you spend your money and your time, and what you do with your life force.
It is taking responsibility for any lack of fulfillment in your life. Where have you drifted off from full engagement and what makes your heart sing? Where are you settling?
It is being clear about what outside yourself you want to contribute to and what you do not. You are not roped into anything, but rather choose.
It doesn’t mean you are the cause of everything in your life, but it is yours to consciously choose how to respond. So rather than go so far as to say you cause your allergies (an endless cycle of self-blame), it is saying it is yours to manage them.
Ultimately, responsibility is about empowerment. Choice. Consciousness. Quite different than being caught in Good Girl or Good Boy and being resentful.
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