“Today I will start to take personal responsibility for my thoughts, actions, and the consequences which arise from them”
Personal responsibility is a hard concept to grasp for most of us. There is always someone to blame for how I’m feeling, how much money I have or don’t have, why I can’t get a job, why I can’t pay my bills, why I can’t find somebody to love me, why I’m in debt, why my wife left me, why a loved one died, why the world’s in such a terrible state, why I’m afraid, why someone was murdered, etc.
But who is really to blame?
“Feel or declare that (someone or something) is responsible for a fault or wrong”
If we take a long, hard look at our lives and the people who have been connected to our lives in one way or another, we can always find someone to blame, and that makes us (temporarily feel better).
“The capitalist scoundrels are to blame for the state of our economy, muslims are to blame for the west living in constant fear of a terrorist attack, christians are to blame for everything, Banks are to blame for me losing my house, the government is to blame for me not having a job, large corporations are to blame for destroying the rainforests…” etc.
So now we have that out in the open.
Yes we’re angry, yes we’re hurt, yes on the surface it looks like someone was to blame. Yes the drunk driver killed your son. Yes the murderer killed your wife. Yes the child molester raped your daughter. Yes the terrorists blew up your family. These are facts. These we accept. Terrible as they might be to us, they have happened. So who do we blame?
Of course we must blame the perpetrators; we must bring them to justice. Yes we must!
“So, what’s personal responsibility got to do with blame? How is me taking personal responsibility going to bring back my murdered wife?”
Let me start from the beginning.
We are supposedly the most intelligent species on the planet. We are all capable of great creation, and great destruction. So when I talk about taking personal responsibility I am talking to every person on the entire planet. Murderer, politician, religious extremist, banker, do-gooder, charity worker, oil worker, gun assembler.
We are all responsible for everything that is happening, has happened or will happen. Do you see? We live in a connected world. We are all parts of the whole. And although we may not have the power right now of “seeing” the future, we need to begin to.
Every action begins with a thought, and ends in a consequence, and round and round we go.
I, as a powerful individual creator, one part of the most intelligent species of the planet have thoughts. Those thoughts may have been formed through the actions of another, which ended in a consequence, which started my thinking process…
“He killed my wife. He’s going to pay for what he did. I’m going to kill him.”
Can you see the stupidity of statements such as “an eye for an eye?” How childish, and at the same time, so destructive.
Most people talk of taking responsibility for your actions but forget that every action is preceded by a thought and ends with a consequence. And anyone who says “I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking…” is not telling the
whole truth. Sure, you may have appeared to “just act without thinking,” but I guarantee there was a thought which triggered it (even if the person suffers from a delusional mental illness).
We never look forward to see the consequences of our actions. For some reason that is unimportant.
I’m sure the inventor of gunpowder (apparently in china in the ninth century) could not have foreseen the murder of twenty seven people at a school in Connecticut in the U.S in December 2012. I’m sure the person who worked on the production line at the factory which made the Bushmaster .223 assault rifle used in the killings, would not consider themselves responsible for the murders.
But here we have two people, separated by oceans and land over 7,000 miles and 1,200 years apart, connected by an event that neither of them could have foreseen.
“Seems a bit of a loose connection” says you. “The only person responsible for the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was the person who pulled the trigger.”
“Was it?” says me.
I’ll leave you to think about that one.
I’m sure the inventor of the motor car could not have foreseen the car crashes that kill over a million people every year, or the inventor of radio communications foreseeing that billions of people are now addicted to their mobile phones.
Connecting personal responsibility for consequences over hundreds or thousands of years seems like a crazy idea, and indeed it is, even if we can prove a definitive link.
We live in the present. We live right now, and personal responsibility exists right now. That’s why we can only take personal responsibility for thoughts, and actions which exist right now. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be rolling the thoughts forward to see if our actions will have any negative consequences in the future.
Let us go into this more deeply.
The thoughts we have may become actions and actions must have a consequence. Whether that consequence is 5,000 miles or years apart.
So let us begin to look at our thoughts carefully, and not hand responsibility to others for the consequences which may arise from them. It may seem like a crazy, time consuming exercise, but if we don’t, there will always be someone looking for someone to blame. Wouldn’t it be a shame for the amazing human race if that person was us?
by alan macmillan orr