Choose Personal Responsibility Over Blaming Others or Taking Offense
A husband and wife were driving through an unfamiliar section of the city. She read the map and told him to turn left or right at the intersections. He faithfully followed her every direction, until finally she wailed, “Now YOU”VE gotten me lost!” True story? Yes. (It wasn’t my honey and me, it was an acquaintance of mine.) It just illustrates that we, as humans, are quick to blame others for the results of our own actions. We take offense instead of taking personal responsibility.
People have become very confused about how to respond to life, because of conflicting messages they’ve received since childhood. For example:
- It’s common to praise children for everything, which can inflate the ego and instill a mentality of, “I’m entitled. The world owes me”.
- Parents make excuses for their children and blame the teachers, when the child gets in trouble or under performs.
- Rather than learning that actions have consequences, many young adults get bailed out of their problems, so they never learn resilience or what their own strengths are.
- We’re told “you’re entitled to your feelings and to let it all out”, without learning how to responsibly manage those emotions productively.
- We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not be doormats. However, by not giving an inch we hear feedback as criticism from which we must defend ourselves.
We’ve lost our sense of humor and take ourselves too seriously. Becoming offended over real and imagined slights has grown into a problem of epidemic proportions. We see evidence of this in the irritation, sarcasm, hostility, resentment, pouting, grudges, rants, rioting, assaults, road rage, “going postal”, school shootings, and even terrorist attacks.
Here are some things people say in order to avoid taking personal responsibility:
“It’s not my fault!” While excusing ourselves, we hold others to an impossibly high standard.
“It’s not fair!” Because we fail to develop gratitude, we compare our life to others and become embittered and perceive the good others experience as a personal grievance.
“It’s his fault!” Shifting blame, when things go wrong, is easy.
“He started it!” When someone slights you, you respond by giving him the cold shoulder. Your own hurtful behavior is okay, because he did it first.
“He’s out to get me!” It’s all about us. We don’t make allowances for others’ good intentions. Instead we cynically search for their “sinister” reason.
If you want inner peace, cultivating the habit of personal responsibility is vital. I love how Iyanla Vanzant puts it:
“One of the greatest challenges in creating a joyful, peaceful and abundant life is taking responsibility for what you do and how you do it. As long as you can blame someone else, be angry with someone else, point a finger at someone else, you are not taking responsibility for your life.”
Taking personal responsibility for the good and the bad in your life is one of the most empowering things you will ever do. Only then can you shape your future. Consider this: the word responsibility is made up of two words…response and ability. That means you have the ability to mindfully choose your response to whatever happens. As Viktor E. Frankl said,
“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Taking personal responsibility is a habit you can cultivate over time. It’s like a muscle memory. You do it often enough, it will become automatic. So it’s up to you to decide. What kind of person do you want to be? If taking responsibility is important to you, start with these suggestions…
- Before responding, honestly ask yourself, “What part did I play in this situation? How did I make it worse? How could I have made it better?”
- Recognize your own limitations. You’re not perfect, so give yourself some slack and avoid becoming defensive and prickly, when others point out your “faults”. Accept it with grace and humor. And give others some slack too.
- Sincerely apologize for your actions or your lack of actions.
- Welcome feedback and learn from it. Even if you think it’s undeserved, you can find something positive in it, if you look hard enough.
- Look for the good in others and don’t impute wrong motives. If you’re suspicious, respectfully ask them why they said or did something, rather than jumping to negative conclusions.
- Accept your life, without judgment and resignation, rather than wishing things were different. View today as a starting point from which you can create something better.
- Let go of the past. You have the choice and the power to change your future.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re not taking personal responsibility for our actions. If you’d like to enhance your emotional intelligence and communication skills, so you can turn even the most trying situations into positive outcomes, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). You can do this!