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What does Responsibility mean

Taking more responsibility in your life is an idea that is often misunderstood. It’s something I’ve worked with a lot. It can be scary if you think taking responsibility means you need to change something you don’t heave any idea how to change, or fix something that is not actually yours to fix. 

In its most basic form, responsibility simply means the ability to respond. It’s not about fixing something or changing something. It’s more about bringing awareness to what is happening, rather than glossing over it or turning away. The act of acknowledging and truly seeing what is occurring is the beginning of the healing process.

Years ago I struggled to be able to acknowledge the emotional pain my husband was in. I was doing my best to work on our issues so we could stay together, and it felt so complex I was overwhelmed. I was unable to allow myself to feel his pain because I thought it was my responsibility to change something in me to help ease his pain.

I remember the day I figured out that wasn’t true. His pain was his, and not mine to fix by changing my behavior. This was such an incredible relief because I had no idea how to help his pain! I’d already tried endless things that seemed to have no effect at all and I’d realized I couldn’t live my life trying to please him.

What I found out was that by acknowledging his pain and letting it be ok it was there, a point of connection between us was created. I could simply be there while he looked at his pain and why it was there, if he chose to do that.

Taking responsibility for my part in the bigger picture of life does not mean I need to fix everything wrong in the world. It means I need to bring my awareness to the places in my life where I have learned to hold myself separate from life, the places that have not been fully looked at. This is not an easy process, but it is also not nearly as hard as it can seem when we are thinking about it and looking at it from the outside.

This brings to mind something my dad said. He worked outside all his life and he worked in all kinds of weather. I heard him comment more than once to one of us kids who were not too happy about going outside to work with him, that it can look miserable out there, but once you actually go out, it’s usually not that bad.

In my own experience I found what he said to be true. I would add, as long as you are dressed properly for the weather. What would being dressed properly for taking more responsibility in your life look like or mean for you?

For me it means keeping in mind I’m there to simply see what’s occurring, not change it. After I’ve been observing for awhile and can understand more of what’s happening, there may well be something I can do to help. But only when I’m clear about the bigger picture and how my action could be helpful.

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