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  • Sharon Borland

#18 Being Responsible for Being Responsible


Taking responsibility can be difficult but opens up opportunities for change.


One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that I am not keen to take responsibility for some things. This shows up in a number of different ways that seem to have a common link, for example:

  • I’m reluctant to make suggestions about activities that involve other people, whether that’s just Gary and I or other family and friends. Because if I do and it doesn’t turn out well, what will that mean about me?

  • When Gary suggests an activity, my response is often quite neutral. I will often go along with it but not always with a lot of enthusiasm. By not wholeheartedly committing, I seem to leave an avenue of escape for not being responsible if it doesn’t go well. The photo is an excellent example of this where we ended up crossing gates, fences and a river gorge on what should have been an easy walk. I really wanted Gary to be responsible for this and not me!

Of course, I do take responsibility for a whole number of things, but I’m getting much more interested in noticing and observing those areas where I seem to try to distance myself from being responsible. Ironically, there are times when I’m not even being responsible for not being responsible!!


My temptation when I have insights like this is to immediately move to a decision that this is a ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed – which invariably leads to the need for me to be ‘fixed’. None of this is likely to be helpful or powerful in moving forward. Questions open things up and answers often close them down. So, I’ve decided not to try to ‘fix’ anything for now, but rather engage in an enquiry about the circumstances in which I might be avoiding responsibility. By just hanging out for a while with what I notice, other insights are likely to emerge.


It can seem so simple. It sounds so simple – “just take responsibility”. But I find it’s actually not nearly as straightforward as it sounds. To be responsible for something, I first have to believe that I am responsible for it. This is so much more than making a decision on the basis of thinking that I should, or someone else thinking I should. As soon as I create that relationship to responsibility about what’s happening, I can take some action. If I’m not responsible, I’ve just got circumstances around me and I’ve thrown away any access to do anything about them. I’ve become a victim of those circumstances.


Since I’ve started thinking more deeply about the whole area of responsibility, I can see ways in which I avoid responsibility and also try to shift blame when things don’t work out as I hoped. I’m also starting to really focus on the way I’m engaging, often not quickly enough to intervene with what I start to say but sometimes in time to make some adjustment in how the conversation ultimately goes. My desire to be more responsible is slowly shifting as I observe more closely the impact of not being responsible – both on me and those around me.


How responsible are you being?

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