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It happens literally thousands of times every day. In the dimly-lit corner of an old gymnasium, in a musty church basement, and in the plush environs of a corporate board room. It is a meeting attended by very special people. Rare is the individual who does what these people do. Whether sitting in uncomfortable metal folding chairs or in comfortable swivel chairs, the setting doesn’t matter to these people. They are there to do one thing: take personal responsibility.

Those willing to share, muster their courage. They look at the other attendees, and as they introduce themselves, they tell the truth: My name is ___________ and I am an alcoholic [or a drug addict, or addicted to pornography, or addicted to sex, or something else]. And then everyone warmly greets the person. The greeting is an affirmation that this is a place for those who take personal responsibility for their life choices.

Yes, they are there for support. But taking responsibility is a prerequisite to the support sought and granted. The people who attend these meetings are not there to support dysfunction or victimology. They are there to support the kind of empowerment that only comes from ownership of one’s own choices.

“I am … ” and then fill in the blank.Do you hear that? “I am…” Before the participant talks in more detail about their particular struggle and admits to their setbacks, or before they seek support in ways they’ve progressed, each person who is willing to share conveys to the group that they “are”. There’s no outward blame-placing when I boldly admit that “I am…” 

Do I wish they’d change the standard opening intro to My name is ___________ and I am in the process of overcoming my addiction to [alcohol, or drugs, or pornography, or sex, or something else]? Yes, I do. But still, the power is in taking and owning responsibility for one’s choices.

This series of articles is not How To take responsibility. Taking responsibility is the act of owning the fact that…  

  • I did this thing…
  • I said this thing….
  • I lied…
  • I misjudged…
  • I caused this damage…
  • I started it…
  • I created this pain…
  • I messed up…
  • I failed…
    By default, most people avoid taking full responsibility for their life and their choices. We all need to find and focus on the missing puzzle piece that will make taking responsibility much easier.

Nobody needs to know how to do it. Down deep inside we know what taking responsibility is. Otherwise we wouldn’t have such an instant, visceral aversion to doing it. If there was ever any confusion as to what it means to admit to wrong-doing and to the damaging consequences of our words and actions, then we’d inadvertently take responsibility from time to time.

But that is never the case. Taking responsibility is an act of the will and we know it. The problem is that we willfully choose not to do it! Too often, we are more conscious of our failure to take responsibility after we’ve failed to do it, than before. Yet, at some level, we knew what we were doing at the moment of truth when we made the choice not to own up to our role in what went wrong.

We don’t need to learn how to take responsibility any more than we need to learn how to breathe. The difference between the two is that breathing can be controlled by our unconscious, while the discipline of taking responsibility must be a conscious choice.

We know at a very deep level that our survival depends upon inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. We’ve got to breathe. Breathing is not optional. However, as with any habitual activity, such as breathing, the activity unconsciously gets taken care of without consulting the conscious and we take for granted the benefit of doing it.

And therein, I believe, is the secret.     

And that is where we will resume our discussion in Part Two.

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