I’ve been noticing a trend around personal responsibility. I am noticing how often we deflect responsibility rather than take responsibility. I notice it in the business teams I work with (“It wasn’t my fault. He didn’t tell me . . .”), in the families I coach (“She made such a big deal about me not finishing . . .”) and in myself (“They’re making me crazy!”). We avoid taking personal responsibility for our behaviors, our words, and our emotions! Deflection takes the burden of responsibility off of me and places it . . . out there somewhere.
So, why do we deflect responsibility? Perhaps because it’s challenging for us humans to humble ourselves, and to speak the truth about our shortcomings and mistakes, our unmanaged anger or the ways we’ve hurt or offended another.
Perhaps because it is uncomfortable for us to face our own vulnerability. It’s much quicker and easier to blame you or some circumstance, than it is to pay attention to my own needs and emotions, right? And yet, accepting my vulnerability and acknowledging the truth that I do indeed have needs, is a foundational skillset for living a fulfilling life!
As I’ve paid attention to these ideas of responsibility, deflection, and vulnerability in my own life, I’ve become aware of two patterns:
- When I’m complaining about something or someone, there is typically an unmet need lurking below the surface.
- My ‘go-to’ form of deflection appears to be sarcasm with a bit of martyr mixed in.
Here’s an example of each:
- Complaint: “I’m tired of you always leaving such a mess!” What’s really going on is that I feel anxious when the house gets too messy, but to say this out loud feels vulnerable. Personal responsibility would sound like, “I notice I’m feeling a little anxious about how messy the house seems to me. Please spend 10 minutes putting your toys/books/clothes/stuff away before dinner.” I take responsibility for my feelings and express my needs in a clear and respectful way.
- Sarcastic martyr: “I know you couldn’t possibly stop watching the game for 5 minutes so I’ll take care of it myself.” Personal responsibility would sound like, “I need your help. Would you take 5 minutes to help me . . .”
When we take the lead in this higher level of honest communication, we invite others around us to do the same. I don’t know about you, but my relationships would certainly benefit!
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
Ultimately, as we take more responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we see ourselves more and more clearly. And we see others more clearly as well. What’s that verse about removing the plank from my own eye so I can see clearly to remove the speck from my brother’s eye?
Below are a few tips for exploring Personal Responsibility in your life:
- Raise your awareness by paying attention to the things you complain about, whether silently to yourself or out loud to others. Take a few minutes at set times throughout the day to reflect on your inner conversation (at lunchtime, on your drive home from work, before you go to sleep, etc.). What have I been telling myself about the people and circumstances in my day?
- As you become aware of complaints or judgments, write them down. Read them aloud to yourself. What do you feel or notice when you say it aloud?
- Can you connect with your deeper need? What is it that you were expecting or hoping for that is not happening?
- Sometimes, we may decide to express our unmet needs or expectations to the others involved. Other times, we may need to take it to prayer, asking the Lord to reveal that “plank” in our own eye and to bless our relationship according to His will.
“And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. So don’t fool yourselves. For if a person just listens doesn’t obey, he is like a man looking at his face in a mirror; as soon as he walks away, he can’t see himself anymore or remember what he looks like. But if anyone keeps looking steadily into God’s law, he will not only remember it but he will do what it says, and God will greatly bless him in everything he does.” – James 1:22-25
May God bless you and all your relationships!
Copyright 2017 De Yarrison