Personal Responsibility

You’ve probably come across the idea in your life that “everything happens for a reason.” People usually make this point known when they are suffering an ill of some unknown origin or counseling another who is moving through a difficult situation. Some say of the god they claim to worship, “God gave me this because he knew I could overcome it” or “God gave me this painful situation so that I could learn a lesson.” Others see the ill things they experience as the karmic “comes around” of a previous “goes around,” the natural returning cycle of an unbroken chain of cause and effect.

Contrary to popular opinion, not everything happens for a reason. Neither does everything that happens to you comes your way because of something you did or said. You are a member of the body of humanity. As a part of the body, you are affected by what the other parts of the body do and say, directly and indirectly. Because of this, you may be asked by your immediate circumstances to handle a mess that you didn’t create.

You can take full responsibility for everything in your world without being to blame for it. Likewise, you can handle everything in your world with honor and integrity, without blaming others for the messes you have to clean up that you didn’t create in the first place. Blame invariably gives evidence of the failure to assume personal responsibility at some level.

When a bad or unfair or unexpected situation comes your way, you have a choice. Either you make the best of it or you suffer under its “oppression” (a state that you create in your mind by viewing it as such). Everything in life does not happen for a good reason. Many things happen that are simply the result of the poor choices made by you or another member of the body of humanity. The best way I’ve found to deal with such matters is to handle it without blame, self-pity, complaint or accusation. So doing sends a signal of victory back through the same channel (and perhaps beyond!).

I find it hard to believe as so many do that a loving creator would conjure up or require painful circumstances for those loyal to him to learn lessons. Neither do I possess sufficient faith to believe that we are only here to learn lessons so that our perfect souls can be freed on earth in some future incarnation.

We have created this messy world for ourselves and we – if we wish to continue as stewards of this remarkable planet – must take the steps necessary to clean up our act. It is a deeply personal matter that begins with learning to assume responsibility for the creative handling of that which comes within our personal sphere of influence, no matter what its provenance or how we may feel about it.

That said, it’s not you against the world or you against the rest of the body of humanity. By taking this approach (i.e. eschewing blame or accusation and looking to be a part of the solution), you see more clearly how to bring others in who can help you make the best of what is happening. Your vision won’t be clouded by anger, futility, commiseration or hatred and on that basis your appeals for help will be heard and likely responded to more cleanly and quickly.

9 thoughts on “Personal Responsibility

  1. Colin

    Of the two choices that we have when something unfortunate comes down the pipe into our life, the one you described is the only way you can work successfully as a member of the human family. To put it in the language of William George Jordan, it is the only way to build roads and avoid building walls. The only alternative is if you had the capability to determine what was really your fault and what came to you through the fault of others (and you don’t, and neither do I). But even if you could determine what was really your fault and what was the fault of someone else’s bad decision, do you think it would be the right thing to blame them and to punish them for doing wrong? I think it would be better to do as you suggest even if you knew the motivation and cause for every act that happens in the world, because the only thing that blame does is harden the heart of the blamer.


  2. David R

    Thank you for blowing the cover on this debilitating conviction, which appears in so many different guises. “If you have a problem, you are the problem.” “You’re being tested, or tried in the fire.” “It’s your karma.” On and on, with just enough truth to it that people are typically neutralized by it! After all, if a higher power toys with and tortures human beings, what hope is there really?

    The truth is that we are responsible for what comes to us, not because we caused it all, and not because God willed it necessarily, but because we are inherently noble, capable stewards of enormous creative power. We can certainly learn from adversity and limitation, but fundamentally we are here to transform and use to advantage whatever comes, good or ill as it may appear. All else flows from the acceptance of that responsibility.


  3. Ricardo B.

    I’ve also seen many who immediately assume everything that happens to them must be due to some fault of their own and then their energies are sadly consumed in the process of reconciliation. Though no one denies learning from one’s mistakes or learning a lesson through working through some challenge, it’s a whole different story when you think it all revolves around yourself. The tendency towards self-centeredness is amplified and more deeply etched in for one thing.
    What I hear you say is the opposite, where your energies are instead fully used towards the challenge’s resolution, even enlisting appropriate help from those around you in a constructive spirit. Rather than imploding under the weight or leaning towards self-obsession and trying to find answers from that angle, the focus is immediately drawn outwards and I find this to be quite a resourceful approach. We are not so infinite in energy that we can afford to be wasteful, are we?
    There are many intangibles in life and we certainly don’t need to add to them. A valuable idea to chew on…..


  4. Beth C

    If we will blame God for the state of our lives and the world, we will surely blame each other. I’ve noticed that blame is at the root of so much that is destructive and time consuming — self-righteousness, gossip, witch-hunting, futility, self- loathing etc. Taking responsibility without taking or assigning blame opens possibilities that we would never see while tangled in blame. Loved this post!


  5. Coco

    Most of the blaming that I’ve witnessed looked like a form bullying or deflecting the focus elsewhere. Seeing how a circumstance originated can be helpful so it’s not repeated but often doesn’t change what is required in the moment. Feeling responsible for everything that has happened in life is a heavy weight but feeling adequate to handle what happens opens the doors to immense strength. Thanks for this post. It’s very helpful to me.


  6. Thanks for your most inspiring words and message this morning Gregg. I guess that we have two choices how we handle the circumstances that come our way. The first way is to blame, become obsessed with trying to figure out “why me”, and basically lead a life of frustration and futility, waste and bitterness.

    Of course the second choice is to take personal responsibility for dealing correctly with the circumstance regardless of the source or reason(s) for it.

    It seems to me that the second choice is what will eventually allow us to participate in the building of a healthy environment, one that offers value to others so that they too can discover their own value.


  7. Kierney

    The approach that you are suggesting, of taking responsibility for our own expression would apply to everything, from a slight sense of injustice because you feel someone didn’t say something the right way to the largest indignity that can happen in a personal or global sense. I agree with your statement that things don’t happen because we’re being tested in some twisted way by a higher source. But, due to the nature of the world we live in, things do happen and we have a choice whether to succumb to acting like a pawn, or handling everything that comes with the nobility and dignity.


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