We were taught from a young age that it’s good to be responsible. At its core, being responsible means you are accountable for your actions. In other words, you’re in control of how you act and behave.
Outside My Control
Sometimes external events happen that are outside your control. You might do your best at your job and still get fired. You might try everything you can to save your marriage, and your spouse might still file for divorce. You might get sick. Your house might be in the path of the hurricane. And so on.
Giving Up Responsibility
But too often in life, I think we give up our responsibility. We might have gotten fired, but do we need to feel depressed and mope around all day? We might have gotten divorced, but do we have to isolate and feel down forever? We might get sick, but do we need to get angry at God? Our house might have been damaged, but do we need to complain about it over and over again?
Everything is Our Responsibility
Author Byron Katie argues that all our problems–all stress, anxiety, and depression, are due to our own problematic thinking. Because of this, our problems are our responsibility. This is a radical idea, and our initial tendency is to react against it. What do you mean my depression is my responsibility? I was wrongly fired! What do you mean my sadness is my responsibility? She had an affair! What do you mean my anger is my responsibility? I was diagnosed at such a young age! What do you mean my attitude is my responsibility? My home is ruined!
Radical Responsibility Makes You Free
If you understand this idea of radical responsibility deep in your soul, it can be incredibly freeing. No longer are you at the mercy of the actions and behaviors of other people. No longer are you at the mercy of chance, fate, or luck. Whatever happens to you, you are in charge of how you respond. You can respond in a way that causes you suffering, or you can respond in a way that enables you to love and engage your circumstances, just as they are.
Content in All Things
I think this is what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said he had learned to be content whatever his circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13). Only when we take radical responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and reactions can we be truly free.
Discussion: What do you think about this idea of radical responsibility? Do you think it is possible to take 100% responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and reactions? Why or why not?