“Most people do not really want freedom because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
– Sigmund Freud
So many great and famous things have been said about responsibility that I almost feel I might better serve you by filling this page with their words instead of my own. Still, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least attempt. While searching for a headline quote today, I struggled to choose from such great men as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Twain – but to name only a handful. The whole thing struck me as interesting: why has the word responsibility been a focal point for so many important, historically-significant people? In society today, responsibility is nearly as popular as commitment (hopefully the sarcasm is apparent!). That being the case, what are we missing?
Responsibility is the process of looking reality square in the eyes and saying, “fine”. It’s unlikely that our lives can ever really mean anything much until we choose to take ownership of what we have done in the past and where we are headed in the future. Truly, responsibility is the cornerstone of maturity and, eventually, wisdom.
Most people will willingly take credit for the positive things they affect, but we must also be willing the embrace our failings. I have yet to read the account of any great person who lived their entire life without a mistake. To err is human, so don’t be disappointed in yourself when things go awry. What is significantly more important is your ability to acknowledge your role in what has happened, dust yourself off, and go forward without looking back.
If responsibility is the cornerstone of maturity, then commitment is the precursor to responsibility. It is imperative that we honor our commitments and look out for those who depend on us – whether friends, family or co-workers. Likewise, we must maintain accountability for those who have made commitments to us. It’s only fair to expect others to live up to their promises just as we fulfill our own obligations. Remember, however, that you cannot control anyone’s behavior but your own. When someone lets you down, don’t exhaust yourself trying to demand results.
This brings me to another interesting point: sometimes it is equally important that we release ourselves of responsibility. When maintaining your own accountability, remember to be realistic about what you can and cannot control. There are things which happened in your life that are beyond your influence. There are things you were involved in which you did not cause. Don’t attempt to take responsibility where it isn’t appropriate – we still need to accept our own limitations regardless of ambition. Make certain that you don’t weigh yourself down by trying to bear burdens that are not yours.
To the parents: teach your children responsibility and accountability if you wish for them to succeed. Ensure that your young ones take ownership of both their failures and their achievements. The future of the world is in their hands.
Thank you for your time.