Don’t “Take Responsibility”
Today I would like to ask everyone to never tell someone to “take responsibility” or “be responsible” again. Broken down, the words sound empowering – you are encouraging others to enter a mindset of responding appropriately to the situation, but what this phrase has come to mean is “take the fault or blame,” “man up and shoulder the consequences of your actions.”
We usually would use this phrase when someone is blaming others or assuming the role of the victim – “It’s not my fault x happened, so and so let him do it.” What we need to recognise is that someone who is avoiding blame or pushing it onto others is in denial and in victim mode. When we try to push someone in this state to accept their part of the ‘responsibility’ it is often met with closed minded defensiveness. (Why are they trying to make me take on a burden/ punishment that isn’t mine?! Can’t they see that I have been wronged? I am the victim, the small, the weak. I cannot possibly carry more than I am already. I won’t. They are wrong.) Any heart to heart communication that you were hoping for could be shot down.
Instead of trying to get someone to shoulder the “blame for their actions or inactions – ask them at what point they gave their power away. Usually, if we think through the event or project, there will be a point where we made a decision that brought about the painful consequences. “I drank more than I wanted to because I didn’t not refuse the drink he paid for and set before me. I had told him no, but when he brought it, I felt obligated to drink it.” When we find these pivotal decisions, they are points of empowerment as we can choose to permanently change our behaviour in the future. “I choose to only drink alcohol that I order. I will not be pressured into accepting anything I did not request.” (Side note: if one does not feel confident rejecting a drink, in a public place, how is one going to feel about rejecting advances in a more intimate, and more inebriated state…).
At what point did you decide to give your power to someone else?
1.) When I choose to trust the numbers instead of checking them.
2.) When I wanted to say “no” but said “yes”.
3.) When I realised what was going on but didn’t say anything.
4.) I knew I should leave but stayed.
5.) I didn’t want to go, but let myself be pressured into joining.
6.) I froze.
7.) I knew he/she/I was in no state to drive, but I got in the car anyway.
Instead of asking someone to take responsibility (shoulder the burden) of an outcome, we can empower them to be more aware of when they are giving their power away. We are not taught to stand in our power – we do that by recognising that we have a choice and if we have contributed to the situation, then we most definitely have power over it to change it.
“Take responsibility” implies that there was an ending with a negative result that needs to be paid somehow by someone. “When/ how did you give your power away” suggests that their power can be reclaimed, be wiser, and that they have control going forward and in the future.
We cannot change others or change what happened, but we can look back on where we lost ourselves and take a good hard look at situations that have us slipping. You can always change a situation, wherever you are in it – the beginning, middle or end, and it never really is the end until you are dead. If you do not reclaim your power, others will always have power over you.
The wise don’t need others to suffer the burden of their actions, but to learn from them. Do not look to blame and punish, but to strengthen and heal. When and how do you give your power away? What have been pivotal decisions in your life? What foundational changes have you made as a result of taking back your power?