All Or Nothing (Part 1)

Responsibility In A Broken World


Responsibility is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. As we’ve witnessed the heartbreaking loss of innocent life in the United States and around the world in the past few weeks, we react in anger and grief, and ask, “Who’s responsible?”. It’s an honest question, because until you know who is responsible, you don’t know how to begin to solve the problem. On the surface it also seems like a simple question, but it is far from that.


Where does my responsibility begin and where does it end? Is it my fault? Am I supposed to fix it? Can I fix it? These questions and many more are made difficult because of two common mistakes we often make when it comes to the area of responsibility:


We are over-responsible. (I can do it all)

Many of us believe that we can (and should) do it all. When our friends stumble, we run to the rescue. When there is a problem at work, we work overtime. When there is a disagreement with friends, we say we are sorry, and try to patch things up. The person who believes that everything is their responsibility lives by a simple motto: “If I can, then I should”. When we feel responsible for everything and everyone around us, we eventually become exhausted. We try to help everyone (even those who don’t ask for it), but we never seem to get anywhere. We are crushed when others fail or get hurt and secretly blame ourselves for not seeing it sooner and helping.

People who are over-responsible look like the most caring people on the planet, but in reality, they are just afraid. They are afraid that something will be their fault, afraid that people will no longer like or accept them if they don’t do what they should. When we take on too much responsibility for someone else, we block them from taking responsibility for themselves. In the end, we hurt the people we want to help.


We are irresponsible. (I can’t change anything)

Irresponsible people feel that the world is too big and too broken to fix. They say things like, “I would have been better were it not for my parents and the ways they failed.” Or, “I would have done better at that job, but my boss didn’t like me.” Irresponsible people never accept responsibility for things that are happening. If there’s a disagreement with friends, we stubbornly wait for the other person to apologize, (after all, I wouldn’t have said those hurtful words, if she would have called like she said she would). When we blame the world around us for all of our problems, we eventually feel helpless and stop trying altogether. We become blamers, dependent on others to make things better for us.


People who are irresponsible look like the least caring people on the planet, but in reality, they are just afraid. They are afraid of trying and failing, afraid that they don’t have what it takes. When we don’t take responsibility for our life, we burden those around us in unfair ways. In the end, we hurt the people that we care most about.


Sound familiar? Don’t panic, we all tend to sway to one of these two unhealthy extremes at times when it comes to responsibility. Check back later this week for part 2 of this post, as we look at what makes for a healthy middle ground.