The Quest for Purpose Continues
The Power of Personal Responsibility
This chapter is the core, the most important part of the journey to higher consciousness. First, we'll examine what responsibility is, define it and determine how we can own it. Then we'll take a look at what happens when we surrender our personal responsibility for various aspects of "self" to some real or nebulous, undefined entity. This is our cost, the price we pay for abdicating that which is certainly ours. Finally, we will attempt to understand how to reclaim the power over ourselves, to regain the liberty and personal freedom which is our birthright and see how we all benefit from fully accepting personal responsibility.
Responsibility means to be fully accountable for all (intended and unintended) consequences of everything we create: our thoughts, words and actions or deeds. Accepting responsibility means never blaming anyone or anything for whatever happens to us, never making excuses for our words or deeds, never ignoring what happened as a result and never failing to consider what might happen in the future. It means never explaining or rationalizing what we have said or done because doing so would be a sure sign of our attempt to evade responsibility. Accepting responsibility means being fully conscious of all possible outcomes, especially when others are not.
Ways of Escaping Responsibility
Regrettably, escaping personal responsibility and inventing new modes of its abdication is the latest fad on our planet. We do this in so many ways that I can't even count. It is, however important and informative to recognize the patterns so that they may serve us as signposts for opportunities to increase our awareness, to grow up.
One of the most popular ways people sidestep responsibility is to blame. They blame the government, or this party or that, or the "system", or some action or inaction of same. They blame the weather, their husbands, wives, parents, children, their childhood, their (lack of) education or socialization, various companies, neighbors, friends, pets ("the dog ate my homework") and so on. They blame, blame, blame everybody and everything for their condition or circumstances instead of accepting personal responsibility for their lot in life and then acting in a way that would produce the desired (or at least, better) results.
Another favorite way to escape personal responsibility is apathy. Let's face it, many people just don't care. They pollute and litter with abandon, abuse or exploit resources and people and act in a way that would be considered selfish, inappropriate or ignorant in civil society. Unfortunately, apathy has a high price (as we'll see later), which many people sacrifice for the sake of short-term gain or convenience.
Closely related to apathy is ignorance — people unaware of the consequences of their thoughts, words and actions. These people are so focused on their personal needs and goals, typically short-term gains or momentary pleasures that they lose sight (if they ever had it) of the long-lasting consequences.
The last path to escaping responsibility I want to cover is hope. Call it faith if you must, it is a misguided but entrenched belief that something or someone else will provide, take care of us and make our problems go away. "Pray and Jesus will provide" is not an adequate substitute to getting off the couch and going out to earn a living, or creating value in society in some way.
Recall the days of yore, before FEMA and the National Guard. When a flood threatened, people got out and started filling sandbags. Those could not help that way, cooked for and fed the workers. They were not crying for government help, nor waiting for some miracle. They took responsibility for themselves and acted.
The Benefits of Escaping Responsibility
Why are we so willingly lured into giving up responsibility? What benefit do we gain by doing so? We do it because it is easier to point to some entity than to develop a plan, to follow it and act and to own the consequences, whatever they might be. There is so much less risk in saying that the school system is responsible for educating our children than to devote the time and energy to look after their learning and progress. Who is responsible for our health? The medical profession, the insurance companies, HMOs, government or us? Who is responsible for our lawful conduct? The police and the judicial system or us?
It is so much easier, so much more convenient to give up responsibility to someone else, to some entity than to own it. If something doesn't work out the way we wanted, we have someone or something else to blame. If things do work out, then we reinforce the belief that we made the right choice.
The High Cost of Escaping Responsibility
The cost of escaping responsibility in every case is giving up power over ourselves, over some aspect of our life. If you exceed the speed limit on the highway, you give up power to a cop to impose on your time, to take your money and possibly even your freedom. If you eat an unhealthy diet, fail to get enough exercise — in other words, give up responsibility for your own health, you will not like the consequences.
In the process of accepting full personal responsibility for all we create (thoughts, words and actions), we must expand our definition of Self to include all who could be impacted by the consequences of our creations — our family, our friends and colleagues, our neighborhood, our city, our country, even our planet. This is not optional but an absolute and immutable requirement.
It is much harder to live responsibly than to invent excuses, rationalizations or assign blame. It is, however necessary for you to come into your power, to reclaim the power which was yours to begin with.
The Big Win
The greatest gain in fully accepting personal responsibility is freedom, liberation from those who could impose constraints and restraints upon you and your creations (thoughts, words and actions). You win by becoming a powerful entity others want to emulate and follow. You will earn respect, trust and even admiration. Most importantly, you will free yourself from fear, secure in the knowledge that nobody can take your power away.
In the next chapter, we'll look at the steps we need to take on the road to liberation, to move from victimhood to the mastery of life. I hope you'll stay with me…