In Part 1 of this post we talked about the dangers of being overly responsible and of being irresponsible. So, how do we avoid the extremes of taking on too much responsibility on one side, or just throwing up our hands and giving up on the other?
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My wife is a little over a month away from her due date, and from birthing our new son into the world. I already pray that he will have an incredible life. I want good things for him just like I do my daughter. As much as I want to, though, I won’t be able to make him become a healthy adult. As much as I want him to make good decisions, and to do his best at everything he attempts, there’s no way I can ensure that will happen. As much as I know that the key to a great life is great relationships, I won’t be able to keep him from choosing toxic people to surround himself with. I can love him, I can teach him, I can be there for him, but he gets to decide what he will do with his life. I can try to control him and block him from making bad decisions if I want. This is actually very healthy when our children are small. It’s good to keep them from drinking things they find under the sink, for instance. As he grows however, I will need to control him less and less, because there will be a day when he alone will control his decisions, and he needs practice to prepare for that day.
Be honest about your area of impact.
While I can’t control my son, it would be foolish to believe that I have no influence at all. I can teach and discipline and encourage. All of those things will make a difference. Just because I can’t guarantee that he will only make great decisions in his life, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to give him the skills to make good decisions if and when he chooses to. We can have an impact in the lives of others, but they will always have a choice as to what to do with the impact we make.
A happy middle ground: I am responsible to you but for me.
I can only be responsible for things that are within my control. I am responsible for me. I am responsible for my actions. I am responsible for what I do with the emotions I feel. I am responsible for how I respond to a world around me that is at times positive and at others incredibly negative. Others may treat me poorly and life may take bad turns that I cannot control, but I have the power to respond to whatever life brings. Life may not always be fair, but it is full of potential, and I’m the only one who can make the most of that potential in my life.
While I am responsible for me, I am only responsible to you. As a Christian I believe it is my responsibility to love others. Some people may receive that love so that we become friends over time. Other people may reject that love and want nothing to do with me. I can offer you mercy, grace, encouragement, warning, and truth, but you get to decide what to do with it. You are responsible for you.
When we embrace the challenge of being responsible for ourselves and the freedom of only being responsible to others, we often find a great weight lifted off of our shoulders. A healthy definition of responsibility will lead to a healthy life, one that those around you will appreciate and benefit from.