Responsibility can be defined as taking accountability for something. We have responsibilities in work, as parents or as members of society. Sometimes however, we can find it difficult to accept or take responsibility for our actions, beliefs, behaviours or duties.
Nothing to do with me
Dave worked in a company that designed and built stands at exhibitions. One time he worked so hard at a car show getting all the graphics, displays and lights ready on time the organiser was so pleased he gave Dave a dozen tickets for the show to take back to the office as a thank you. The tickets themselves were about thirty pounds each so that was quite a thank you.
Dave took the tickets back to the office, put them down on a desk and said, ‘There’s tickets for Saturday’s car show help yourselves’. Then went back to his own desk to do some work. Later on one of the other staff members went to the desk for a ticket but saw there were none left. ‘Are all the tickets gone?’ she asked. There was no answer. She asked around the room where were the tickets, how many were there, did anyone one get a ticket, but no one had lifted any. Some even said they were planning to lift one as they left and were surprised there were none left.
Then she asked Paul if he’d lifted a ticket, but Paul ignored her. She asked again and he mumbled something inaudible. Again she asked if he had taken any of the tickets to which he replied, ‘That was Dave.’
She wasn’t sure she understood what he meant and asked him to explain. ‘That was Dave’s fault.’ He replied. ‘What was Dave’s fault?’ she asked again.
‘Dave just came in and said there’s tickets for the car show. Help yourselves. That’s what I did.’
Paul had lifted tickets for himself, his brothers, his dad, his neighbour, and some friends.
What should I do?
Susan and Karen had been friends since school days. They had kept in contact over the years and been on holidays together. Following the breakup of Karen’s marriage, she moved into an apartment near Susan and she started calling round regularly. Then Susan met a man and started dating him. However, Karen would say things like, ‘I’m sick of hearing about him, he’s only using you, he’s manipulating and controlling you, I’m here on my own I’ve no one, I hate him’ and so on.
Susan was torn. This was a really nice guy and they both really liked each other. They would even invite Karen to spend time with them to get to know him, but she always refused. In fact, Karen didn’t like any of Susan’s friends.
Susan began to fear doing or saying anything that upset Karen to the point where she stopped contacting her friends and was questioning how she could possibly continue to see this guy without it upsetting her friend.
In the first scenario Paul took no responsibility for his own actions, his own selfishness and greed. It was all Dave’s fault. In the second scenario Karen was trying to make Susan responsible for her happiness. Susan felt responsible to the point where she was cutting herself off from others and perhaps even eventually a man she really liked.
We can take responsibility for our own actions and behaviours. This is ownership. We can take responsibility for how those actions and behaviours affect others but that is not the same as owning it. Someone might feel disappointed if we don’t do what they want. We can certainly empathise but unless we are deliberately withholding something to cause distress, that disappointment is theirs. We are managing both our boundaries and other people’s expectations. When we don’t take any responsibility or take on too much, we can cause ourselves and others a lot of distress and start to feel resentment, towards ourselves, others and situations. When we take responsibility for what is ours and let go of what isn’t, we are managing expectations and boundaries. We are showing self-respect.
This article was written by sentientcounselling