Friday, February 3, 2017
I hope you have had a good week. We now trudge through the long dark of February, like the mines of Moria there are worse things than orcs in the deep places of our psyches. This week I am talking about responsibility.
Some people will sigh, and go, "Oh no not responsibility, ye Gods save us from that!" I hear you and understand. I'll never forget the time when I was working retail when a manager wanted to make me responsible for another employee. No increase in my pay mind you, just more duties and liabilities. I've had a rather dubious relationship with responsibility in my life. I've tried to have the bare minimum of it that I can muster. This is in part due to a general misunderstanding of what responsibility is, and I believe many people have similar misconceptions. We often equate responsibility with culpability. Now to be sure they are related, but they are not equivalent.
If you ever watch television you probably see a ton of ads for attorneys. Some call them ambulance chasers. I call them harbingers of doom. We here in America have become a highly litigious society. (That means we like to sue...a lot). So we have come to associate the one being responsible with the one who is to blame, and by default the one who will be bankrupted by the lawsuits. This is exacerbated by our overly complex legal code. Most of us are breaking the law everyday. You may be breaking one right now, I'm not sure which one but it is highly probable.
Now I don't want you to think I'm just out to blame all the lawyers. I've known some really good ones that were genuinely interested in helping people and standing up for the rights of those who have been victimized by either individuals or the system. This sue happy culture is actually a side effect of something deeper. We have an unrealistic expectation for people to behave perfectly. This goes double for ourselves. We who are not blind to our own shortcomings will want to avoid being the one responsible, because we know we aren't perfect and we wish to avoid blame for that. This often leads us to pointing fingers at others and scapegoating. When people are presented as the ones responsible it generally means they are about to take a fall. So in our society those with the least get blamed for the most, and those with the most take responsibility for the least. If you continue to the watch horror show called the news you will see this again and again.
Now the reason I bring this up is that I've been pondering personal responsibility lately. I've been wondering what are my personal responsibilities when it comes to my clients and students. I want to do right by them, which is not always easy to pinpoint. Making things easier for somebody is sometimes the right thing to do, and sometimes it is not. Knowing when to let someone face consequences is one of the hardest things I have to deal with in my line of work. People constantly want me to take responsibility for their decisions in there life, and while I advise and support I refuse to do it. If I take the responsibility for their life then I become their personal scapegoat. Not only that, if I take responsibility for their life, I take their power from them. This is the opposite of what I intend for the people who come to me. I want to empower not disempower.
So how about you? Are you relinquishing responsibility because you think it is the same as blame? Are you giving up your power to someone else? Are you taking someone's power and not allowing them to take responsibility for their life? Well the best of us have done that. Cut yourself a little slack, and then maybe cut some for your neighbors too. As we look around the world in its brokenness we must learn to put the pieces that are ours back together and cheer on those that do the same, and have patience for those that are not yet ready to do so.
Peace and Blessings,