May 14 – Responsibility/Guilt

When we take responsibility for everything that goes wrong, we feel obligated to fix it. We do everything in our power, even when it is beyond all hope of repair. Even when it kills us to do so. We blame ourselves for everything, or we go the complete opposite direction and shirk all blame and responsibility whatsoever, holding ourselves accountable for either all or nothing. Either way, we let our guilt control us. This is no way to live.

calm body of water

On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“We women who do too much are responsible. That is one of our great virtues, or so we think. We are willing to take accountability and blame for everything. When something happens at work, it must be out fault. If our relationships fail, we must have done something wrong. If our children have difficulties we are to blame. Guilt and blame are old familiar friends. It is inconceivable to us that we did not cause . . . whatever. This is one form of our self-centeredness. We put ourselves right squarely in the middle of any disaster. Of course, the other side of the dualism is to be totally blameless and a victim. We bounce back and forth between the two.

What a difference it is to move into respondability, a place where accountability and blame have no meaning and our ability to respond is the key.”

Just as it would be narcissistic to believe we alone are responsible for all good that happens to the people we know at work and at home, it is indeed self-centered to believe we are at fault for all that goes wrong. Accountability goes too far when we take blame for things for which we are not even responsible. There is such thing as assuming too much responsibility. Our guilt that we are not good enough is what drives us to think we are at fault for all that goes wrong in the lives of those around us. We must let go of our guilt. We are not to blame. While it is good to admit when we are wrong and willingly accept our mistakes, we cannot hold ourselves accountable for misgivings we never commited. To avoid falling into this trap, we must move into a position of focusing on the positive. How do we respond to what goes wrong? Our response is not to be confused with a fix or solution. A response is how we react. How we feel about the situation. Whether we express those feelings in a constructive way or not. A response does not equal responsibility.

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