Humans spend a lot of time trying to avoid taking responsibility for our actions, our words, and our decisions. These three obligations are what many adults wish would vanish. I would like to propose a different way of dealing with these responsibilities that we find so hard to face, by grasping them to ourselves a friend instead of as an enemy to circumvent.
Taking Responsibility for Our Actions
It is human nature to want to blame someone else when we become unhappy or meet with difficulties in our lives. One might blame the police officer, for instance, when we get a ticket for speeding. What is the truth behind the camouflage we throw up to make ourselves seem better in other people’s eyes?
Psychologists have studied this phenomenon of humanity, and have discovered at least one reason why we would rather blame something or anyone else but ourselves for our actions.
The phenomena I am speaking of, blaming someone or something else for our actions, is a defense mechanism. When you displace blame onto something or someone else, you are protecting your sense of who you are, and avoiding facing head-on your flaws and failings.
It is only when we are totally honest with ourselves, that we can beat this seemingly insidious behavior. We must look at what WE did to cause the speeding ticket, instead of trying to push our responsibility off onto the officer who arrested us. Were we speeding? The police officer would not have bothered to pull you over, had you not been going too fast. In the long run, it is better for your self-esteem and ego to admit your wrongs, and to accept the consequences for your actions. Pushing off onto someone else your responsibility weakens you, and lays you open for ridicule.
Taking Responsibility for Our Words
There are two ways a person can harm themselves and others with their words, by telling a lie and by using words as a weapon.
Everyone lies. That is a fact of life that many would love to deny. However, when we lie to escape the consequences of our actions, we are doing great harm to ourselves and others. Even lies of omission can be damaging.
One of the reasons lies are so harmful, is that not only have we damaged our reputations when and if we are found out, but our self-esteem loses power. We tend to look at ourselves even more negatively than others, and to be caught in a lie shakes our self-concept to the core. Not only this, but the cascading effect of one lie to cover another is exhausting.
It is much simpler and much better for our self-image to own up to a fabrication we have told. Taking responsibility for what we have said leads to greater power within and without ourselves.
Taking Responsibility for Our Decisions
We all make thousands of decisions every day. From the time we open our eyes in the morning, until we go to bed at night, we are inundated with choices and their subsequent outcomes. Most of these decisions are benign, and our lives are not shaped by them, but some are enormous and can lead to either happiness or failure.
Allowing ourselves to take responsibility for our decisions without carrying a load of regret, takes a lot of self-understanding and examination. While there is no need to squander our time feeling ashamed or lost because we didn’t turn right when we turned left, is harmful to ourselves and others around us.
However, we are obligated to remember that what decisions we do make that affect ourselves or others are our responsibility, and we should always hold ourselves accountable for what we have decided.
When you own your decisions, you make yourself very powerful both in mind and spirit. Saying to yourself that you did something wrong, without allowing yourself to indulge in self-pity, is a tremendous mark of strength.
Once you have owned what you decided, you can examine it honestly and try to learn from what worked and what didn’t to improve your performance in the future.
Taking Responsibility of Our Lives Is Difficult
Taking responsibility for every aspect of our lives is indeed a difficult concept to grasp, but the rewards of doing so are enormous. One will find that not only do you hold yourself in higher regard, but that other people around you will think of you as a stable and conscientious person.
“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.” Eckhart Tolle