A new perspective on responsibility...
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There are some words whose mere mention is – almost (!) – guaranteed to cause a deep collective breath in. A deep calming breath in preparation for whatever may be coming next.
And, as an aside, what we find particularly interesting is how often the actual – dictionary – meaning of a word is completely different to the one commonly attributed to it.
Anyway, before we digress too far, this isn’t what we wanted to focus on today. Instead, we’d like to give a completely new perspective on a word whose actual meaning we all seem to understand far too well. Responsibility.
Dig out a dictionary – or have a quick look online – and it’s easy to see why responsibility is often seen in a less than positive light. Here are a couple of definitions:
“Having the duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.”
“The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.”
Duty, control and blame. And with them come guilt and resentment. Not only does this all have the flavour of hard work, but work we’re unlikely to take on voluntarily. Little wonder that responsibility is so often seen as an unwanted – and onerous – burden.
However, there is a more positive definition for it, hidden at the bottom of the entry:
“The opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorisation.”
And it’s this more positive side that we’d like to take a closer look at today.
But first let’s play a little word game. Take a close look at responsibility and you’ll notice that it’s made up of two words. Response. Ability.
Or, if you put them round the other way, the ability to respond. This simple switch completely changes how the word feels. It takes responsibility from being a burden we’re being forced to carry – and often imposed on us from the outside – to a choice we can voluntarily make.
And then it’s quite simple.
If we decide that we’re responsible, then we have the ability to respond in whatever way we wish. More about this in a minute.
Equally, if we decide that we’re not responsible, then we don’t have the ability to respond. In other words, we decide to leave it alone and continue on with our lives.
Now if this all sounds a bit abstract, bear with us, it’ll all make sense in a minute. Yes, it will!
We often marvel at the intelligence of this beautiful place we call home and the huge variety of life that lives here. How this incredibly complex web of creation so seamlessly interacts and effortlessly responds to the smallest change, whether positive or negative. And all this without any interference or an instruction manual…
Without this instinctive ability to respond, life wouldn’t exist for very long. Yet we take it so much for granted.
Ironically, while our minds may not be aware of it, our bodies are. Continually responding to whatever is going on around us. Making the millions of tiny adjustments needed to maintain our bodies and daily lives.
So isn’t it time that our minds caught up and started to – consciously – use this ability to respond to whatever is going on in our lives?
Instead of living on autopilot, to actively decide what action we’re going to take – or not take – to everything that happens in our lives.
And if this sounds like hard work, it isn’t. Nor is it about micro managing our lives or those around us. It’s simply about consciously deciding how to respond to whatever happens in our lives. Big or small. Wanted or less so.
Often it’s simply a case of taking a moment to notice – and appreciate – the world around us. The change of seasons, sunshine, birds flying above us or insects at our feet. Or the less welcome things it’s so easy to moan about but are essential to life. The shower of rain, howling gale or snow. Picking up the piece of litter rather than ignoring it and walking by.
Perhaps giving a kind word or thought to someone we come into contact with, however fleetingly, during our day. Or, maybe, doing something more concrete to help.
Equally, it may be something that we decide has nothing to do with us and so leave it well alone. The important thing is that we’ve noticed whatever it was and then made a conscious decision not to get involved, rather than just going by on autopilot.
The important thing is that, whichever way we decide to respond, we’ve become fully involved in every aspect of our lives. No longer insulated in our own little bubble.
Even better, as we come out of our own little worlds, then others do the same for us. Lending a helping hand when they were not obliged to. Appreciating us for the things we do. Being a little more forgiving when things don’t quite go to plan. And, in the process, life flows along much more smoothly for all concerned.
As always, the choice is yours.
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