As the oldest child, the sense of responsibility has been impressed on me from a very young age. I was supposed to look after my younger brother and was often reminded to be the example of perfect behavior. Of course, I failed miserably at both.
Later in school and at work, responsibility was also “sold” to me, as a key and necessary virtue to be successful in life. Until recently, I never encountered anybody who had a different view. Being responsible is good and necessary, right?
I had to think about this a lot in the past couple of months when I was confronted with various issues and situations that clearly showed me how assuming responsibility can be both counterproductive and negatively influence your feelings of joy and freedom.
A critical look at responsibility
Imagine, a family member, friend or colleague is experiencing some problem and you feel responsible to help, because it so happens that you have the time or the specific knowledge that is required. Before you know it, you are drawn into the situation and their problem all of a sudden has become your problem, even without you intending it to be so.
Because of your sense of responsibility you devote the necessary energy and time to solve the situation, but more often than not at the expense of your own energy and joy; especially if the problem is harder to solve or takes more time than you originally anticipated. However, stepping away is no option either, you assumed responsibility, remember?!
Did you run into situations like that? How did you feel about it?
The funny thing is that once you solved someone else’s problem, they will often come back asking for your help again because you did such a good job. Unfortunately, your good job prevented them from doing what is necessary to effectively deal with the situation themselves. In that sense your assuming responsibility has been counterproductive.
Why are we told that responsibility is good, even if it can have such negative side effects? Perhaps so others can benefit, manipulate or use you?
I know that I am rattling your cage here but please take a moment and critically reflect some more on the concept of responsibility as our society defines and uses it.
Responsibility from a spiritual perspective
Now, I can already hear your next, and logical, question: “but Jan, what would happen if nobody feels responsible anymore, for anything? Certainly, there needs to be some level of responsibility, otherwise there would be chaos in the world!” Well, would there?!
Before answering that question for yourself you may want to listen to this interesting and humorous discussion with Abraham about responsibility, in which a spiritual and probably for most a very controversial definition of responsibility is introduced.
Questions you may want to reflect on
1. How do you feel about this spiritual concept of responsibility? That you are only responsible for the alignment with your divine Self and that the rest will take care of itself?
2. Take a look at the all the situations where you assumed responsibility. Was it really necessary to do that? Was there on your part perhaps at some level fear involved for what would happen if you hadn’t assumed responsibility?
The next time you are invited to take responsibility for a situation or you feel inclined to assume responsibility, why not take a moment and decide more consciously whether it is really necessary to become involved and if you really want to. Who’s interest are you serving?!
I am sure that whatever you decide in these situations, you will never look at responsibility the same way again…
p.s. If you like, don’t hesitate to share your experiences or observations regarding responsibility by using the comment box.