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Archive for May 3rd, 2010

I often hear, “He needs to take responsibility for his actions!”  I think, “Okay.”  But what does it mean for someone to take responsibility for their actions?  Does it mean they need to be punished by themselves or someone else?  That’s what that statement sounds like to me.  That might be true, but I don’t think that is what it means to be responsible for ones actions.

From my point of view the word – responsible – means to have the ability to respond.  So what does that mean?  It means we are to respond to a situation verses react to a situation.  When we react, we don’t think about what we are doing or saying – we’re just reacting.  Much like when someone taps your leg just below your kneecap, your leg reacts and jerks.  It’s a reaction.  There is no thought in that action.  It’s very fast.  I call it the animal part of us that reacts to situations in the primal “fight or flight” syndrome.  Reacting might be good if we are running from some wild animal, but reacting might not be so positive if we are dealing with something someone has said or has done to us.  The main point here is that there is no thinking involved, just action.

If we respond to a situation, then we enter into a process of looking at what was said or done, and we decide how to respond in a manner that will give us the outcome we are attempting to create.  It requires more maturity and discipline to manage the world from this perspective.  It involves engaging the frontal lobes of our brain.  The part of the brain that processes and analyzes information.  It accesses past experiences and attempts to use some type of logic.  Once all the data has been sorted, we make the best decision we can with the information we have and then we respond.  Our response might not always be the best, or get us the results we were hoping for, but with what we know at that moment, it is the best we can do.  As time passes, and as we gain more experiences or wisdom we might respond differently.

In being “responsible” or taking responsibility for our actions, I don’t see punishment as being part of the process.  There might be some learning and expansion of awareness, but not punishment.  Punishment is a very different process.

So, the next time someone tells you to be responsible, stop and think about how you can respond in a way that creates a win/win situation for all concerned.  Look to see if this is one of those wonderful learning opportunities where you get to expand to yet another level of awareness.

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