Responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of Ethics.
Society generally holds people responsible for their actions, and will say that they deserve praise or blame for what they do. However, many believe that moral responsibility requires free will. Thus, another important issue in the debate on free will is whether individuals are ever morally responsible for their actions—and, if so, in what sense.
Moral responsibility is not necessarily the same as legal responsibility. A person is legally responsible for an event when it is that person who is liable to be penalized in the court system for an event. Although it may often be the case that when a person is morally responsible for an act, they are also legally responsible for it, the two systems do not always coincide.
Jean-Paul Sartre suggested that people sometimes avoid incrimination and responsibility by hiding behind determinism (fate): “… we are always ready to take refuge in a belief in determinism (fate) if this freedom weighs upon us or if we need an excuse”.
St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans addresses the question of responsibility as follows: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?.” In this view, individuals can still be dishonored for their acts even though those acts were ultimately completely determined by their Creator.
Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen, researchers in the emerging field of neuro-ethics, argue that cognitive neuroscience research (e.g. Neuroscience of free will) shows that the brain is responsible for our actions, not only in cases of florid psychosis, but even in less obvious situations. For example, damage to the frontal lobe reduces the ability to weigh uncertain risks and make prudent decisions, and therefore leads to an increased likelihood that someone will commit a violent crime. This is true not only of patients with damage to the frontal lobe due to accident or stroke, but also of adolescents, who show reduced frontal lobe activity compared to adults, and even of children who are chronically neglected or mistreated. In each case, the guilty party can, they argue, be said to have less responsibility for his actions.
Socially, peoples’ responsibilities are those things for which they are accountable; failure to discharge a responsibility renders one liable to some censure or penalty. A job, or profession, or social role will be partly defined in terms of the responsibilities it involves. The extent of responsibility not just for oneself but for others is a central topic for political and ethical theory (‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’). Understanding the nature of our causal responsibility for our own thoughts, natures, and actions is the main problem in any theory of action.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Punishment is now unfashionable… because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious. We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.” author=”Thomas Szasz”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The perfect bureaucrat everywhere is the man who manages to make no decisions and escape all responsibility.” author=”Brooks Atkinson”/]
A fundamental difference between a human person and a tree or a cow is that the person is held responsible for his actions (at least some of them), while the tree and the cow are not said to be responsible for their actions.
Both plants and animals act in certain ways by necessity, since they function according to the nature that their Creator endowed them with. Human persons also have a nature, but specifically human actions proceed from knowledge and freedom.
“Responsibility”, therefore, is essentially related to free actions that proceed from adequate knowledge. It is clearly recognized both in ethics and in law that a mentally deranged person is not responsible for his or her actions. When we say that a man is responsible for his actions we mean that he knew what he was doing and that he acted freely.
Very closely related to the notion of responsibility is the idea of “Imputability”, which means that one may be declared the free author of an action and may be held responsible for it. The more free the action is, the more imputable it is, and vice versa. Thus, when we speak about moral responsibility and imputability we are touching on something that is at the very heart of all moral activity.
Since a person can act with more or less knowledge and with more or less freedom, it follows that any restriction on knowledge or freedom will also affect the personal responsibility or imputability of the act. Since man is very limited and is open to a number of influences, we find that there are many obstacles or impediments to fully human acts — all of which affect moral responsibility in one way or another.
Some of the factors that can diminish or altogether remove imputability are: ignorance, emotion or passion, fear, bad habits, violence, hypnosis, drugs and mental illness. All of these affect either a person’s mind or his will, or both, and to the extent that they do, they lessen responsibility.
Thus, in the realm of morality a person is not held responsible for the observance of laws that he does not know about. Moralists make a distinction between ignorance that cannot be overcome and ignorance that can be eliminated with minimal effort. The former is called “invincible ignorance”; the latter is called “vincible ignorance”.
It is common knowledge and experience that emotions can inhibit clear thinking and free choosing. Sometimes they can be so strong that they remove all culpability. Fear is mental anxiety because of impending evil. It is rarely so strong as to deprive a person of all moral responsibility for actions performed. Fear can lessen imputability but it can also increase the merit involved in good actions when one persists in good in spite of great fear. Such would be the case for a police office who, in spite of great danger to himself, overcomes his own fear in order to rescue someone held as hostage in a bank robbery.
Violence, bad habits, hypnosis, mental illness, etc. either diminish moral responsibility or totally erase it depending on their influence on the mind and will. Of course, if a person is freely responsible for positing an obstacle to his own knowledge or freedom, such as deliberately getting drunk or taking drugs, then he is fully responsible for what is done or omitted.
In all of this it is important to remember that complete responsibility for human acts depends on their proceeding from adequate knowledge and full consent of the will. Defects not traceable to personal fault will either diminish or totally remove all moral responsibility.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility” author=”Ambrose Bierce”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.” author=”Les Brown”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Thus we find that people who fail in everyday affairs show a tendency to reach out for the impossible. They become responsive to grandiose schemes, and will display unequaled steadfastness, formidable energies and a special fitness in the performance of tasks which would stump superior people. It seems paradoxical that defeat in dealing with the possible should embolden people to attempt the impossible, but a familiarity with the mentality of the weak reveals that what seems a path of daring is actually an easy way out: It is to escape the responsibility for failure that the weak so eagerly throw themselves into grandiose undertakings. For when we fail in attaining the impossible we are justified in attributing it to the magnitude of the task.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Responsibility is the price of greatness.” author=”Winston Churchill”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Responsibility is the thing people dread most of all. Yet it is the one thing in the world that develops us, gives us manhood or womanhood fiber.” author=”Frank Crane”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you load responsibility on a man unworthy of it he will always betray himself.” author=”August Heckscher”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”To decide, to be at the level of choice, is to take responsibility for your life and to be in control of your life.” author=”Abbie M Dale”/]
Responsibility and the Law
In ordinary discourse some people are spoken of as ‘not responsible’ for acts or omissions, but there are several uses of the term ‘responsible’. For example, not only people but things or events also are spoken of as ‘responsible’ for occurrences or non-occurrences, when all that is meant is that they had a part in the physical causation of them. Again, people are said to be ‘responsible’ for other people — such as their children — or for organizations, in the sense that they are morally or legally culpable if the latter misbehave. In the sense, however, with which we here are concerned, ‘responsible’ means ‘to some extent culpable (either morally or in law, according to the context) for one’s own acts or omissions’. The ascription of responsibility in this sense depends on what we believe to have been the person’s mental state at or before the time of the act or omission. ‘Premeditation’ usually makes an objectionable act seem more culpable. If the actor foresaw a real possibility of his causing harm — for example, by his way of driving — his act or omission will be called ‘reckless’, and blamed accordingly. If he did not foresee it, but we think that he should have, he may be called ‘negligent’, and blamed accordingly — usually less than for ‘recklessness’. The law, too, makes distinctions of this sort, although with more subtlety (for example, civil law takes into account ‘contributory negligence’ by the person harmed).
More often it is the actor’s state of mind at the time of the act — or more precisely what it is believed to have been — that determines the degree to which he is regarded as blameworthy. If the act seems to have been quite accidental — if for instance he knocks over a child whom he did not see in his path — he is not blamed, unless we think that he should have been aware of this as a real possibility. Again, if his physical movements that did the harm were of the kind which are not willed, then he is not blamed: examples are the movements of a sleepwalker, or of a man who is sneezing.
In certain situations, however, lawyers — and ordinary people — regard intentional actions as excused. Violence may be excused by the belief that one is about to be killed by the other person and that there is no alternative (such as escape). ‘Necessity’ is an excuse in the US Model Penal Code, although English judicial decisions are hostile to it. ‘Duress’ — acting under threats of death to oneself or one’s family — is sometimes accepted. About ‘superior orders’ there is even more disagreement. An official executioner who carries out a lawful sentence of death is not legally culpable, but is morally condemned by many people for accepting the task. Carrying out an order which one knows to be unlawful usually incurs moral — and sometimes legal — blame, unless one does so in the knowledge that one would suffer death or a severe penalty for disobedience.
Even un-coerced intentional acts, however, may be excused, or at least mitigated, by other explanations. Provocation, if sufficient, is accepted by English law as lessening culpability rather than excusing the act completely, although courts are sometimes persuaded by it not to penalize the convicted person. Less transient mental states may also mitigate or even excuse. An example is an abnormal inability to control desires or impulses, especially if given a psychiatric label such as ‘psychopathic’. Other mental states, such as depression, frequently persuade courts to forgo penalties, and, if a hospital or clinic is willing to accept the sufferer, to entrust him to psychiatric care and treatment. The extent to which such states protect the sufferer against moral censure varies with the circumstances and the viewpoint of the censurer.
Some kinds and degrees of mental disorder are regarded as excusing offenders completely. English law recognizes an ‘insanity defense’. To qualify, the offender must, at the time of his act or omission, have been suffering from a ‘disease of the mind’ (in more modern language ‘mental disorder’) such that he did not ‘know the nature and quality’ of the act, or alternatively know that it was ‘wrong’ (which is now interpreted in England as meaning ‘against the law’). A third qualifying possibility is that he was suffering from a delusion which, if true, would have legally justified what he did: for example, a deluded belief that his life was threatened. In other common-law countries which have adopted and adapted this defense the exact definitions of the sufficient conditions vary, so that, for instance, ‘wrong’ can mean ‘morally wrong’.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”To be born free is an accident; To live free a responsibility; To die free is an obligation.” author=”Mrs Hubbard Davis”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When I was appointed head football coach in 1972, I decided to approach my role as a coach much the same as I did as a bishop, delegating responsibility to my assistants, putting responsibility on the players for self-improvement in all aspects of their lives, and using personal interviews with players to try to give positive reinforcement and encouragement so that they might do their very best and reach their full potential, both on and off the field.” author=”LaVell Edwards”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The great thought, the great concern, the great anxiety of men is to restrict, as much as possible, the limits of their own responsibility.” author=”Alice Giosué”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Responsibility is what awaits us outside the Eden of Creativity.” author=”Nadine Gordimer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” author=”Vaclav Havel”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Responsibility walks hand in hand with capacity and power.” author=”Josiah Gilbert Holland”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man.” author=”Roy L. Hunt”/]
Responsibility or License
Responsibility is guided by reason and virtue; license is choice without restraint. License is the throwing off of all responsibility. It is a carte blanche to do as we feel. As such, it is incompatible with virtue and destroys community.
License, as the throwing off of all responsibility, leads to absurd and dangerous action. On the personal level, license leads to moral chaos. If my actions are based merely on whim or the impulse of the moment, they are completely unpredictable, even to me. On the social level, license leads to anarchy — the lack of all dedication to the common good. This is obviously bad for the community, but license is also bad for those who exercise it. I strive to be free from responsibility rather than to be free to take charge of my life.
License can cause damage in the very places where responsibility enriches. If license rules in choosing topic and method, a history paper might not even remotely relate to history. Athletes cannot succeed in a sport by acting on mere whim, for each sport requires discipline, and team sports demand a high degree of cooperation. If the members of a society ignore all restrictions of law, that society will not survive. License abandons personal responsibility and so loses the creative energy and fruitfulness of freedom.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”No man was ever endowed with a right without being at the same time saddled with a responsibility.” author=”Gerald W. Johnson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The game is my life. It demands loyalty and responsibility, and it gives me back fulfillment and peace.” author=”Michael Jordan”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.” author=”Stephen W. Comiskey”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Man has responsibility, not power.” author=”Tuscarora proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” author=”George Bernard Shaw”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”As human beings, we are endowed with freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up to us. ” author=”A. J. Toynbee”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Sin with the multitude, and your responsibility and guilt are as great and as truly personal, as if you alone had done the wrong.” author=”Tyron Edwards”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”In one important respect a man is fortunate in being poor. His responsibility to God is so much the less.” author=”John Christian Bovee”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Too many people confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, stretching the truth, bending over backward, lying down on the job, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck.” author=”Author Unknown”/]
What a sharp contrast with a scene that occurred on a New York street nearly two decades before. Kitty Genovese was slowly and brutally stabbed to death. At least thirty-eight of her neighbors witnessed the attack and heard her screams. In the course of the 90-minute episode, her attacker was actually frightened away, then he returned to finish her off. Yet not once during that period did any neighbor assist her, or even telephone the police. The implications of this tragic event shocked America, and it stimulated two young psychologists, Darly and Latane, to study the conditions under which people are or are not willing to help others in an emergency. In essence, they concluded that responsibility is diffused. The more people present in an emergency situation, the less likely it is that any one of them will offer help. This is popularly called the “bystander effect.” (In the actual experiment, when one bystander was present, 85 percent offered help. When two were present, 62 percent offered help. When five were present, then it decreased to 31 percent.)[do action=”vfquote” quote=”In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it.” author=”John Fitzgerald Kennedy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” author=”John F. Kennedy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility… in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have… is the ability to take on responsibility.” author=”Michael Korda”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Heredity is a splendid phenomenon that relieves us of responsibility for our shortcomings.” author=”Doug Larson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Blaming ”society” makes it awfully easy for a person of weak character to shrug off his own responsibility for his actions.” author=”Stanley Schmidt”/]
If we could sum up the problems in modern society, it would be this: people in general do not take responsibility for their own actions. We have created the problem over the course of generations, and with each subsequent generation we are making it worse. If people would simply own up to their own mistakes and take responsibility for their own betterment and that of their kids, we would be living in an entirely different world.
Some people never grow out of the childhood stage of needing to place blame on someone else for their own created situations. Our overloaded civil court system is a direct result of this problem. Sure, there are legitimate claims that need to be handled in a legal arena to force others to be responsibility for their actions, but there so many frivolous lawsuits of people trying to find others to be found responsibility for something that it is hard often to know the difference.
Take for example the now infamous hot coffee lawsuits where someone spilled their beverage obtained through the (McDonald’s) drive-through, was burned and now was suing said establishment for untold millions of dollars because the coffee was too hot. Uh, let’s see, aren’t you purchasing this beverage with the expectation that it would be hot? Wouldn’t any reasonable person expect if they spilled such a drink on them that it would in fact burn you? Why would your lack of coordination become the liability of the restaurant who sold you the product? Why does this lawsuit even get allowed in the system?
Finding a person or entity to blame and make financially responsible for damage done is perhaps the most abused aspect of our court system. There is money to be made, often through settlements simply to avoid the time, expense and potential negative publicity associated with a full lawsuit. People know this, and unfortunately a lot of people knowingly use the system to their advantage for this very reason. There are many, though, that simply go through such a routine simply because they don’t want to admit that their own actions or perhaps stupidity had led to their unfortunately circumstances, so they go to any lengths to get the blame placed somewhere else.
Off of the legal side, how about our educational system. Parents often rage about how the school system has failed their child and it is the schools fault that their child is an uneducated idiot. Now you can’t remove all the blame from teachers as it is their job to try and teach children, but the children and their parents have a direct and much larger responsibility in the education process. Parents need to stay on top of the child’s progress (or lack thereof) and be an active participant to insuring their child gets the education and life skills they need, both in and out of school. Admittedly some kids have the personalities to make this a difficult proposition, but don’t look to place blame on the school.
Then there is the world of politics, which is the arena where placing blame for wrongs (often artificially) and taking claim for accomplishments that may not be your own is considered part and parcel to the trade.
How about the ever golden excuses when you get pulled over for a traffic infraction? There are entire lines of jokes surrounding the excuses people come up with to explain away or justify their speeding, running a red light, etc. It all roots back to the “my dog ate my homework” period, where are both trying to get away with on one hand and trying to shift blame on the other. “I’m late for a doctor’s appointment” is no excuse for breaking the law. Most cops are not only tired of hearing the lame excuses, but it likely makes them feel even more justified in writing you that ticket when you are trying to weasel out of it.
Here is a great quote on taking responsibility for your own actions:[do action=”vfquote” quote=”A second truth about our accountability is to know that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. The world tries to tell us that the opposite is true: imperfections in our parents or our faulty genetic inheritance are presented to us as absolving us of personal responsibility. But difficult as circumstances may be, they do not relieve us of accountability for our actions or our inactions. ” author=”Henry B. Eyring”/]
With the prevailing belief that schools, churches, communities and government needing to do more for us, versus initiating change ourselves, we will continue down the path. However, if you want to see a lasting change within your circle of influence, start with yourself and your family. Start to recognize when something is your own doing and deal with it. Ingrain in your children a sense of personal responsibility and a lot of other things would work themselves out.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” author=”Denis Waitley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” author=”Booker T. Washington”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The perfect bureaucrat everywhere is the man who manages to make no decisions and escape all responsibility.” author=”Brooks Atkinson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” author=”Abraham Lincoln”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.” author=”Bob Dylan”/]
This is a very important principle. As an adult, you are solely responsible for all the choices in your life. So many people look to blame others or circumstances for the things that are not right in their lives. This attitude is self-delusional; pretty much every long term situation that happens to us in adult life can be traced back to some decision or lack of decision made by us either at a conscious or subconscious level sometime in the past. Once we stop denying, blaming and whining and accept that we had our part to play in the circumstance, then we are in a better position to move forward and to learn from our mistakes.
What people often forget is that it is most often by our mistakes that we learn, if we deny our mistakes or fail to take responsibility we fail to learn and improve. And you know, it is often those who go out into life, make mistakes and try again that are the most interesting people. Every mistake, every catastrophe is a life experience, part of their life story. By getting out there, not being frightened of making mistakes, learning from each chapter of their lives, they grow in wisdom and as a person. We all want to avoid mistakes and do things well, but when things go wrong you should embrace the moment as an opportunity to learn and do better next time.
We must also recognize that we are responsible for the way we respond to people, actions, and events in our life. In fact in my view one of the key determinants of how we perform in life, is not defined by what actually happens to us, but rather how we respond to the events life puts in our way. If your relationships with others if not going well, you need to examine your own behavior. It is often the case that people you interact with will “mirror” your attitude at a subconscious level. So if you are angry or full of resentment, this may come across in your words or body language and you will receive an angry or resentful response. The reality is that if you had approached the situation in a positive and open frame of mind, the outcome would almost certainly have been considerably different, with a positive outcome.
You are responsible for your now. If you hold anger or resentment or hurt for people or events in the past, it is important to try to deal with this, read the section on forgiveness. Remember we often blame people from the past or hold resentment, but the reality is that they may well have done the best they could, given the limitations of their knowledge, background, and awareness. Life is a rich tapestry and sometimes the threads that run through it contain hurt and pain. Remember nothing is finished until it is done, do not let those threads define your whole picture, rather let them highlight the threads of joy and love that you can choose to weave into your life. You have a choice.
Failing to take responsibility
The consequences for not taking responsibility can be very serious indeed and typically end-up defining your whole life. The typical indicators for failing to take responsibility are…
People pleasers: dependent on others for recognition, approval, affirmation, and acceptance.
The Angry, hostile or depressed: Life treating you unfairly?
The Fearful: Unable to trust yourself to take a risk or make a decision, frightened of everything.
The Failing: in relationships and the enterprises you take on in life.
The Emotionally or physically unhealthy: not supporting and taking care of yourself.
The Addictive personality: escaping responsibility, looking for external answers.
The Over responsible and guilt ridden: A need to rescue and enable others in your life, having to feel needed.
Unable to Trust: Unable to trust or to feel secure with others.
The Resistant to vulnerability: Fear of being vulnerable, often linked to past trauma.
Terms used to describe those who have not accepted personal responsibility?
martyrs, self-pitying, depressed, losers, quitters, chronically angry, dependent personalities, complainers, addictive personalities, blamers, stubborn, persons in denial, troubled people, stuck, fearful, pessimists, despondent, mentally unstable, obstinate, hostile, aggressive, irresponsible, weak, guilt ridden, resistant to help, passive, irrational, insecure, neurotic, obsessed, lost
How to start taking Responsibility
In order to accept personal responsibility you need to develop the ability to:
- Accept responsibility for your responses to the people, actions, and events in your life.
- Accept that you are completely responsible for your own choices.
- Be open to change, new ideas or concepts about life and the way life is.
- Get help from others.
- Let go of fear and irrational beliefs.
- Release anger, fear, blame, mistrust, and insecurity.
- Take some risks, be prepared to become vulnerable to change and growth in your life.
- Open Up.
- Use positive affirmations.
7 Timeless Thoughts on Taking Responsibility for Your Life
by Henrik Edberg[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.” author=”Albert Einstein”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” author=”Sophocles”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.” author=”Denis Waitley”/]
What is one of the most boring and tiresome words ever? Responsibility
Like discipline, responsibility is one of those words you have probably heard so many times from authority figures that you’ve developed a bit of an allergy to it. Still, it’s one of the most important things to grow and to feel good about your life. Without it as a foundation nothing else here or in any personal development book really works.
I’d like to explore personal responsibility with the help from some timeless thoughts on the topic.
1. There is always a price to pay.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves” author=”Friedrich Nietzsche”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” author=”George Bernard Shaw”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” author=”Unknown”/]
Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…
2. Build your self-esteem.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, self-esteem and personal satisfaction.” author=”Brian Tracy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” author=”Joan Didion”/]
Why do people often have self-esteem problems? I’d say that one of the big reasons is that they don’t take responsibility for their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered. This damages many vital parts in your life. Stuff like relationships, ambitions and achievements. That hurt will not stop until you wise up and take responsibility for your life. There is really no way around it. And the difference is really remarkable. Just try it out. You feel so much better about yourself even if you only take personal responsibility for your own life for day. This is also a way to stop relying on external validation like praise from other people to feel good about yourself. Instead you start building a stability within and a sort of inner spring that fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you. Which brings us to the next reason to take personal responsibility…
3. Give yourself the permission to live the life you want.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” author=”George O’Neil”/]
By taking responsibility for our lives we not only gain control of what happens. It also becomes natural to feel like you deserve more in life as your self-esteem builds and as you do the right thing more consistently. You feel better about yourself. This is critically important. Because it’s most often you that are standing in your own way and in the way of your success. It’s you that start to self-sabotage or hold yourself back in subtle or not so subtle ways once you are on your way to the success you dream of. To remove that inner resistance you must feel and think that you actually deserve what you want. You may be able to do a little about that by affirmations and other positive techniques. But the biggest impact by far comes from taking responsibility for yourself and your life. By doing the right thing.
4. Taking action becomes natural.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” author=”Dietrich Bonhoeffer”/]
It is often said that your thoughts become your actions. But without taking responsibility for your life those thoughts often just stay on that mental stage and aren’t translated into action. Taking responsibility for your life is that extra ingredient that makes taking action more of a natural thing. You don’t get stuck in just thinking, thinking and wishing so much. You become proactive instead of passive.
5. Understand the limits of your responsibility.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” author=”Epictetus”/]
Taking responsibility for your life is great. But that is also all that you have control over. You can’t control the results of your actions. You can’t control how someone reacts to what you say or what you do. It’s important to know where your limits are. Otherwise you’ll create a lot unnecessary suffering for yourself and waste energy and focus by taking responsibility for what you can’t and never really could control.
6. Don’t forget to take responsibility in everyday life too.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” author=”Helen Keller”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” author=”Abraham Lincoln”/]
Life consists of each day. Not just the big events sometime in the future. So don’t forget to take responsibility for the little things today too. Don’t postpone it. Taking responsibility for your life can be hard and taxing on you. It’s not something you master over the weekend. So you might as well get started with the it right now.
7. Aim to be your best self.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” author=”Henry Ward Beecher”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.” author=”Brian Tracy”/]
Get Up On That Ladder!
James Alexander Thom, on the fear of responsibility: Have you ever had to paint some roof trim, high up? You get halfway up that 36-foot extension ladder and you start wondering about the ladder, its footing and your body weight. You stop and hug the ladder, looking neither up nor down. Your left leg begins a ridiculous but uncontrollable shuddering. At length you conquer that particular rung and inch your way to the next, then the next. Finally you’re at the top, clinging for your life. How can you take one hand off the ladder to use the paintbrush? But you do. Tight as a fiddle you begin. The sky is clear. The sun is nice. The thirsty wood soaks up the paint. You whistle and think positive thoughts and do a good job and forget about the height. You’ve learned an important lesson of life from this. No matter what higher responsibility you take on, it’s scary, very scary, until you start working.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” author=”John D. Rockefeller”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is easy to make decisions on matters for which you have no responsibility.” author=”Toomey’s Rule”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Whether a man is burdened by power or enjoys power; whether he is trapped by responsibility or made free by it; whether he is moved by other people and outer forces or moves them — this is of the essence of leadership.” author=”Theodore H. White”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.” author=”Newton Minow”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.” author=”Barry Lopez”/]