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Eric Downtown

Personal Responsibility

Posted on 2012.05.26 at 13:33
Current Location: 67114
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I used to be so enamored with personal responsibly that I would often accept responsibility for things which were not mine to own up to. Of course understanding the true nature of personal responsibility means also knowing what not to claim.

It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities. ~Josiah Charles Stamp

Personal responsibility is a big subject, with many far-reaching ramifications and it alone holds the key to real (not perceived) happiness, self-confidence, and all the rewards which self-actualization affords. True happiness is knowing ahead of time you will have all the courage you'll need in the face of adversity, and unflinching confidence in your decisions - its the absence of fear. Not the healthy fear which keeps us alive, rather the pervasive fear which destroys lives. Because happiness itself requires unconditional acceptance of personal responsibility, and personal responsibility requires courage.

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, discontented one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate, happy and contented one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered: “The one I feed.” *

The choice to which to feed of course is just that, a choice. Many do not believe that to be the case; that it is simply a platitude without any realistic practical application. They would be wrong - and I am very aware of my use of the word, "wrong." It was less than a month ago that I said I wanted to teach my children there is no right or wrong just motivation and intent and behavior. It was I who was mistaken. There is wrong in the world. Cognitive distortion proved that to me. I was re-reading the definitions of the traits of those who suffer at its cruel hands and was struck at the despair these people who think this way think is normal, right and good: limited, expectation, discounting positive, negative, inflexible, inability, rigid rules, absolute, and blame. Its not enough to teach my children that happiness is a choice - I need to teach them discernment - the ability to recognize this damaging disorder and to run from it! People who suffer from cognitive distortion do not live their life as if happiness were a choice - they are often disappointed. They suffer at their own hands.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things. ~Albert Einstein

The problem I have in explaining personal responsibility, is that it can only be truly learned through experience - one cannot understand the sheer scope of its empowering ability without first shedding attachment of self, attachment of other, and stepping through the empirical tests. Fear must not only be faced to be conquered as the poets would have you believe, but also dealt with accordingly, and reconciled for optimum effectiveness.

The enemy of my enemy may very well be my enemy also. ~ehowton

For this exercise, I suggest using my oft-discussed proven-results checklist of character-building which is a marvelous example which can be applied to a broad range of personality flaws and shortcomings. More specifically, "No, its not magic. And sure its difficult - anything worth doing is. But only its unfamiliarity makes it so. Start small. Try it with little things. Try it on for size. See how it feels. Don't go too far outside your comfort zone, but go far enough. What do I mean? Its like this: What you're doing now is obviously not working, so you really have nothing to lose, despite the initial discomfort of uncertainty. Once you've had a few small successes - and failures, don't forget the importance of failure - you can branch out even further. Utilize your newfound power on even larger issues to tackle." Before you know it, by having confronted your fear in challenging the small things, you can now effortlessly - and this time without fear - face the larger issues. No one is going to do this for you. Ever.

Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

In researching personal responsibility I ran across Dr. Laura's blog where she had a hashtag for it. Not knowing anything about Dr. Larua but knowing quite a bit about personal responsibility I was horrified to discover that she was confusing personal responsibility with her own morals and values - what she herself thought was right and wrong action based on her beliefs alone. Responsibility assumption is an entirely secular doctrine insofar as it is universally applicable. Sure its been adopted into many different religions because of the truth of its nature - but to say that any one of those is the right way suggests that a different way is wrong, and we're suddenly back to cognitive distortion, the bane of critical thinking, personal responsibility's kissing cousin.

Some pursue happiness - others create it.

"You can’t accept responsibility for a situation and be angry at the same time. You can’t accept responsibility and be unhappy or upset. The acceptance of responsibility negates negative emotions and short-circuits any tendencies toward unhappiness. The very act of accepting responsibility calms your mind and clarifies your vision. It soothes your emotions and enables you to think more positively and constructively. In fact, the acceptance of responsibility often gives you insight into what you should do to resolve the situation."*

Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others. ~Confucius

I think - and please disagree - I'm having difficulty finding anyone to bounce these ideas off of, I think the opposite of personal responsibility is victimization. If you cannot, will not, or refuse to take responsibility for your own happiness and well-being, or easily get your feelings hurt, you are blaming others. You are finding fault in others. Portraying a victim is the short-game, it is absolutely not sustainable. Something somewhere will most assuredly break - even if its a lifetime later - and when it does, the inevitable inescapable judgement day. How we handle this eventuality is also a choice.

Choose wisely.

Comments:


Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-05-26 19:29 (UTC) (Link)
I think the opposite of personal responsibility is victimization.

I would absolutely agree. At the beginning of the post you said, I used to be so enamored with personal responsibly that I would often accept responsibility for things which were not mine to own up to. I have often done the same. However, I wouldn't say I was enamored with personal responsibility, but with the control taking personal responsibility provides.

Whether in a personal relationship, a work relationship, etc., I've often found it desirable to step in and accept personal responsibility for the state of events, because at the point one says, "Here's where we are and how I contributed to the problem," one can follow up with, "I'm sorry everyone is feeling bad (I get to be the big person), and here's what I think we should do to rectify things," which is where control comes in. That said, I do make sure my solution takes into account others wants and needs, and represents a workable compromise.

Interestingly enough, most people are so relieved that they themselves DO NOT have to accept personal responsibility that they almost always accept my suggestion for rectifying the issue. Sure they want to tweak my suggestion, make it their own, but in that moment I've just chosen the path for everyone involved and ended the negativity.

That's how accepting personal responsibility usually works. That said, I have run into individuals that are so set on not only not accepting personal responsibility, but in wallowing in their victim status that no solution is ever acceptable to them. Yet because they will not accept personal responsibility, they have no workable compromises of their own to offer.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-05-26 22:33 (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't say I was enamored with personal responsibility, but with the control taking personal responsibility provides.

But of course. I was addicted to happiness. Personal responsibility led to empowerment, empowerment led to being self-assured, and being self-assured ended in happiness. When you're happy for the right reasons, nothing is insurmountable.
Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-05-27 01:08 (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful summary. That is EXACTLY the process as I've experienced it.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-05-26 22:35 (UTC) (Link)
I have run into individuals that are so set on not only not accepting personal responsibility, but in wallowing in their victim status that no solution is ever acceptable to them.

I have come to learn to identify these people and avoid them like the plague. It is this scenario exactly in which taking responsibility for isn't in itself very responsible. A learning curve to be sure.
Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-05-27 01:14 (UTC) (Link)
Yes. It just doesn't work, and instead brings more grief. The problem is that it's sometimes hard to identify these people until you've been down that path with them.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-05-27 01:39 (UTC) (Link)
It is never too late to make positive change in your life.
pcofwildthings at 2012-05-26 23:02 (UTC) (Link)
Michelle said what I was going to say in her first paragraph. Been there too, accepted responsibility when it wasn't mine to claim, but I can't say I was enamored of it or even that I used it as a power play to control or manage the situation. More probably it was to diffuse the situation. Ever the peacemaker.

I think victimization is in part but not entirely the opposite of personal responsibility. Some are just in the habit of blaming others and pointing the finger at anyone but themselves, though I doubt there is complete denial of responsibility on an internal level, just not outwardly admitted. I think this habit may have been one modeled for them by parents, etc., and therefore becomes an ingrained coping mechanism of a most desperate kind.

"You can't accept responsibility for a situation and be angry at the same time." Oh yeah? Ever been really pissed at yourself for something? Perhaps you can't (or shouldn't) stay angry, having accepted responsibility, but I am here to testify that it can be done.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-05-26 23:08 (UTC) (Link)
Ever been really pissed at yourself for something? Perhaps you can't (or shouldn't) stay angry, having accepted responsibility, but I am here to testify that it can be done.

ROFLMAO! That's awesome. And yes. I think you hit the nail on the head with the "stay angry" part. I ran across something somewhere which indicated you acknowledge, grieve, and move on. But yeah, probably more difficult to do when you're the one that let yourself down.

Thanks for the challenge on victimization! I would agree wholeheartedly with your clarification. Sadly, that opens up a whole different can of worms when someone is aware of it but won't own up to it. In my mind that would be worse.
Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-05-27 01:10 (UTC) (Link)
I can't say I was enamored of it or even that I used it as a power play to control or manage the situation. More probably it was to diffuse the situation. Ever the peacemaker.

Yes, I too, have used personal responsibility in this way. That one kind of sucks, but sometimes there is no other way to get people to move on.
Tanya
panacea42 at 2012-05-27 00:42 (UTC) (Link)
Great post, sharing!
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-05-27 01:04 (UTC) (Link)
Why thank you, ma'am! I've been in a somewhat self-evaluative mood lately.
Lelf Treperra
ubet_cha at 2012-06-02 17:09 (UTC) (Link)
I used to be so enamored with personal responsibly that I would often accept responsibility for things which were not mine to own up to.

Any chance you grew up Catholic? This sentence completely explains my first marriage from courtship until its bitter end.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-06-02 23:11 (UTC) (Link)
Ouch! Nope, not me.
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