Responsibility is a word that is so often misunderstood. We are told from a very young age to “be responsible”, “act responsible” and “don’t be irresponsible”. What we are not taught is what the word responsible really means. No one really ever defines responsibility. No one sits down and explains what actions, words or behaviors would be necessary to be “responsible”. Often what we are given is the feeling of what responsibility is based on behaviors that are deemed inappropriate by those giving the definition.
It feels, when you are young, as if responsible really means, “do as I requested you to do.” We are often teach, “when you become more responsible” you can do blank. But is that responsibility? Is responsibility following others desires, requests, and mandates measure responsibility? Is responsibility behaving in a manner that is deemed appropriate? Is responsibility even measureable?
What is Responsibility?
I want to think back to a time in your life where someone called you irresponsible? What were you doing? What did you say? How was that measured?
For most of us from as early as we can remember we were told to “be responsible” with our things. If we broke something we were told that we had been “irresponsible” with that item. As we got older and things like driving and curfews came along we were expected to “drive responsibility” and be home on time as a measurement of our “responsibility.”
If we were late, damaged the car, did not go where we said we would go or did not behave in the manner that we were instructed to behave we were told that was due to our being “irresponsible.” Even at a young age we are taught the word “responsible” with such vastly different meaning.
We are taught the word in correlation to the breaking of a toy all the way to the possible property damage caused by a car. This vast definition is what is so often confusing to so many and why so many struggle to be “responsible.” This ever moving target is one that can, and often is, a boat on the horizon that sometimes can be see but more often is just floating back and forth in and out of sight.
Let’s take for a moment what responsibility really is. Think about that for just a moment. What are we asking for in children and in adults to “be responsible?” Are we asking them to do something in particular? Are we asking them to speak in a very certain way that is “responsible?” Are we looking for a particular behavior that exactly what is right for each and every person in each and every situation? I don’t think so.
Align the word responsibility with the word authenticity
Think about that for one moment. Being authentic with one’s self. Being in alignment with our word and our actions.
The old expressions of mean what you say and say what you mean. Responsibility, I believe, exists when one is in complete alignment with their word, being authentic. For me, and for the way we raised our own children, responsibility is less about what you DO and far more about who you are. “Responsible” is less about what you say and what you do but rather how those actions align with your authenticity. How true are you to your word and your actions?
Think of this example. If we tell our parents that we will be home at ten then we stay authentic with our word and be home at ten. If we tell our boss that a project will be completed by Monday morning at 9:00 then the project is finished and on our bosses’ desk on or before 9:00 on Monday morning. If we are asked to run a few errands for a friend and bring some things by their house then we run the errands and drop of the requested items. If we authentic in the manner we care about our things then we do what is necessary to safeguard them.
Responsibility is therefore derived from the authenticity of our word. Those around us establish a very clear understanding that we are authentic to our word. Our words, our actions, and our behaviors are in alignment with the authenticity of our owns selves. We are called “responsible.” When our words align with our actions I would argue that that is what we are looking for when we are seeking “responsibility.”
When we are being “responsible” others see us as individuals who do what they say they are going to do. Be where they say they are going to be. Act as they say they are going to act and live as they say they will live. It is due to that authenticity to our word that others define us as “responsible.” Again, remember as I have said, less about what you DO and more about who your ARE.
Being authentic to our word and to our actions in reality defines our “responsibility” because the first and most important responsibility we have it to ourselves. If we are inauthentic and do not follow through with our words then others view us as “irresponsible”. If we are not authentic in the ways we appreciate and value others and others things (as well as our own) then others will view us as “irresponsible”.
Let’s go back to the broken toy that we mentioned above. When you were given that toy you were given it understanding that you were to care for it, respect it, and play with it appropriately. You agreed and were then given the toy. When you chose to throw it off of the couch hitting the floor breaking it, your actions were inauthentic with our word. You were being inauthentic and that behavior was labeled, “irresponsible.”
Then as you got older, began driving, and had a curfew. You looked at your parents, gave your word and stated that you would be home safely at the agreed upon time. When that did not happen, again you were not in alignment with your word. You were told you behaviors were “irresponsible” when in reality what they were was inauthentic.
For all of us, our word, is all that we have. If we are not in alignment with our word, being authentic, then others view are word as “unreliable”. The same goes of our actions. If we are not true to what we say we are going to do and not completing what we say we are going to complete then others view us as “irresponsible.”
I would say that rather than irresponsible we are being inauthentic. If we do not honor our word, remain in check with our action, guard our things and protect and love those whom we have committed to protecting and loving then what we are in out of alignment with our own authenticity and therefore society is viewing us a “irresponsible.”
In closing I would say this. The only continuum, the only constant, the only “control” that any of us have is our authenticity. Responsibility is a manifestation of our word, an adjective of authenticity if you will. When we align our thoughts, our words, and our deeds with our own authenticity then responsibility becomes one of the adjectives that is used to describe us.
So ask yourself. Am I aligned to my word? Do my words match my actions? Are my behaviors aligned to my word? Do I do as I say and say as I do? Look carefully with the authenticity IN you, in your word and in your actions. Align them and “responsibility” will follow.