Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Self-Responsibility Starts with An "I"

“Take your life into your own hands and what happens?
 A terrible thing: no one to blame.”
—Erica Jong

In the following three scenarios what do the people have in common?

Josie is a woman in her twenties. She still lives at home with her mother who makes all Josie’s important decisions: how to spend her money, who to go out with, even what clothes to wear. Josie is anxious and depressed.

Matt ordered a new printer for his office. When it arrived he discovered it wasn’t compatible with his computer. "Those idiots," he ranted, "why didn’t they tell me this was the wrong printer."       

Sally and Jerry had a big fight. Now Sally’s tossing and turning in the bedroom while Jerry beds down on the sofa. Neither one is getting any sleep and both think the other should make the first move to apologize.

If your answer was “Hey, no one is taking any personal responsibility here,” you’ve got a good eye for human behavior.

Because what Josie and Matt and Sally and Jerry all have in common is a lack of self-responsibility that leaves them dependent, impotent and victimized. They’re caught up in blaming others for their problems and waiting for somebody else to come along and make their life right. Unfortunately, they’re going to have a long wait and be disappointed again, again, and again ... 

Some people tell us this version of good news: Your life is in your hands. You get to make the choices, elect the options and take the actions that come with self-responsibility. It’s through the door of self-responsibility that personal power and independence enter, often hand-in-hand, bearing gifts of confidence and self-esteem.

There are certainly some truth to it. Oprah Winfrey shared, "When I was started out in television, I was inspired by one woman whose show I never missed. Never. I tuned in every week just to see her ... Mary was the inspiration for all women in television. I was thinking of moving to Minneapolis. I wanted to be Mary Taylor Moore in my life!"

My Mom told me to study hard and work hard so that I would never have to depend on anyone (not even my husband if I ever got married). I knew she loved me. I didn't want to be betrayed like her. I took responsibility to learn and to achieve. I wanted to one day buy her a big house and take her travel around the world. I came to the US for college. I became a software engineer and a development manager in the Silicon Valley.

Be clear though, self-responsibility is not the same as feeling responsible or accepting the blame for bad things that have happened or situations that are painful. But I also went to this extreme. For example, I blamed myself for being a girl and causing my parents' marital problems. I also blamed myself for not being there with Mom when her heart failed in 1975, only two years after I left Hong Kong. I blamed myself for things that I had no control over.

We don’t all enter the world with the same trappings, and people, events or circumstances have wreaked trauma and caused wounds from which many are recovering. Self-responsibility means that when you have worked through your grief or anger or other issues, you can ask yourself: Now what am I going to do? What options do I have?

At the other end, self-responsibility doesn’t mean becoming so self-reliant you don’t ask for help when you need it or seek others’ opinions or points of view. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to know everything, make every decision alone or take on the world single-handedly. As a young wife and mother, I was confident and competent at work; yet in the middle of the night, I woke up worrying about my marriage, my son, and our future. In my self-reliance, I was like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. I did not listen to God my Creator whom I did not know at that time.

"But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices" (Psalm 81:12).

Rather than a heavy burden, self-responsibility can be a source of joy. Knowing you can create the life you want by accepting responsibility for yourself is a great freedom. Even saying the words aloud can produce a feeling of power and strength. Try it.

• I am responsible for my choices and actions
• I am responsible for how I use my time
• I am responsible for my own behavior and communication with others
• I am responsible for working towards achieving my desires, dreams and wishes
• I am responsible for trusting God for the outcome
• I am responsible for accepting things that are outside of my control
• I am responsible for the work I do and the quality I bring to that work
• I am responsible for the values I live by and standards I set according to God's will.
Saying the words out loud can be a little scary and intimidating, but it is also empowering. Accepting and acting out of self-responsibility isn’t that easy. It takes practice and working through and making mistakes and falling back and finding yourself in a place you didn’t want to be again. But that’s the thing about personal growth, the place to start is where you are.

So the concept of self-responsibility is not all good or all bad. It starts with an "I" but it doesn't stop there! As a child of God, I am responsible for intentionally living a life in Christ.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Would you like to explore ways to help young people who seem unmotivated, passive, or outright rebellious? Join me next week in Castro Valley for BASS Convention 2016. My workshop is:

Parenting American Born Chinese Teenagers (presented in Mandarin)
Saturday 3/5/2016
3:45-5:00 pm in Room N10

Check out their website HERE
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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