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We concluded Part 1 by pointing out that we already know at a very deep level about the benefits of doing certain things like breathing. We know we have got to breathe, but because the act of breathing is unconsciously taken care of, we take for granted the benefit of doing it.

If, however, our breathing passage were suddenly restricted or blocked completely, the necessity of inhaling and exhaling would immediately become a very conscious thing. We would be focused like a laser on retaining the biggest benefit of access to air – namely, staying alive.

And therein, I believe, is the secret.

I believe the secret to making it easier to take responsibility, when it is an otherwise very difficult thing to do, is being conscious of the benefits of doing so. There are massive benefits of taking responsibility. We will begin talking about some of those benefits, starting in Part 3.

In today’s post, we will settle on what it means to take responsibility. First, what it is not. Then what it is.

Taking responsibility…

  • Is not merely regretting what happened
  • Is not merely saying “I am sorry you were hurt”
  • Is not saying “I am sorry you have concluded certain things about me”
  • Is not accepting part of the blame

If any of your focus remains on the role played by someone else – how they did you wrong; how you were hurt by them; how they started it, or whatever – then you are not taking responsibility.

What it is: taking responsibility…

  • Includes apologizing
  • Includes acknowledging our own role in things that have gone wrong, particularly when we have caused pain
  • Is specific

Let’s be clear about one more thing taking responsibility is not: it is not saying the other person is completely blameless. But to insist that the other person needs to take responsibility for their wrongs before you are willing to take responsibility for yours is, in essence, saying you really are not responsible, OR your words and/or actions were justified in light of what the other person said or did. And you need to know that if that is your mindset, you are completely missing the point and purpose of taking responsibility.

It may be true that they started it. It may be true that the situation would not have been as bad if not for the other person’s words or deeds. But if it is also true that you chose to participate, the mature thing to do is to take responsibility for exactly what you did as a participant, independent of what the other person(s) did as co-participants, or whether or not they ever take responsibility for themselves.

You ought to be willing and able to own your part(s) of what went wrong completely independent of others being willing to do so. Maybe the others never will take responsibility for their role. Does that mean that, likewise, you won’t either? It shouldn’t.

When I choose to take responsibility for… whatever it is, I am pinpointing specifically what I did and/or what I said that…

  • Created a situation that caused pain for others and/or
  • Contributed to making a bad situation even worse

We continue in Part 3 by discussing the benefits of taking responsibility.

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