A groan went up from the class. It was time for the second major test of the semester, and our professor repeated what she had said prior to the first exam. “You are responsible for the required reading, and that includes all illustrations, their descriptions, and all footnotes.” That meant that every place where ink covered the paper in the past 200 pages was fair game. There was no way out, we were responsible for it all.
We can be tempted to hate responsibility at times. It feels like a weight around our neck. It’s scary. We feel cornered and often look for a loophole or way out of having an outcome depend fully on us. Responsibility also reminds us that we are connected to others, and that what we do matters to more than just us. That can be a frightening thought as well.
So, why do we hate responsibility so much? Why do we spend so much energy trying to avoid it at times?
Being responsible means that we can’t blame others
When we are responsible for something and things go wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. It doesn’t feel good to be wrong. That’s why it’s so tempting to blame others when things go poorly. Blaming is toxic. It breaks down trust in relationships, and it rarely solves the original problem. It’s easy to blame others though, especially when they have failed or been part of the problem. Being responsible means I own my mess without needing to make you own yours. We choose to blame no one but ourselves, and that’s not always fun.
Being responsible means that we can fail
Things don’t always work. Plans fall through. Even if we do our best, things can go wrong. Taking responsibility for a project or assignment means that I may fail at that project or assignment. One of the reasons that many of us avoid stepping up to new challenges is our fear of failure. The thing to remember is that while we may fail that doesn’t mean that we are failures. In fact, most of the great achievements in life come on the heels of many previous failed attempts. Who we are is bigger than what we do. When we understand that failure isn’t terminal, we are set free to learn from it and try again.
Being responsible means that we can let others down
One part of responsibility that scares many of us is the thought of letting other people down. We don’t want to cause pain to others or inconvenience them. So, we avoid situations where we have the power to do that. Avoiding the possibility of failure however, also precludes the possibility of success. We can’t make a difference in the lives of others without the risk of damage. But the risk is worth it, because the difference you can make is very real and much needed.
May you learn and know that you were created to be responsible, and that you can be the difference that someone desperately needs in their life.