If there is one thing that I have found useful in my life and – still relatively brief – career, is the taking of responsibility, at least to a high degree. Nobody is ever fully responsible – but for the important things, you should try.
I identify responsibility as a drive to bring things to completion. If you start something, you would want to see it done. If you learn something, you would want to learn enough to have a decent view of the subject. If you make a commitment, although it may be hard, you keep it.
This is really just common sense, but somehow it seems worth repeating in this day and age. It’s so easy to find cues in our culture that release us from the “bondage” of responsibility: you should do only what is best for you; you are not perfect and can’t aspire to be; take it easy; don’t push yourself too hard; everything will be fine; if you can’t do it now, maybe you’ll try again; you deserve love and understanding, etc…
These statements all contain a seed of truth, but their compounded effect is highly disruptive and dangerous.
There are two essential ways of viewing the world: as a hard place that needs to be changed, so that you can be safe in it; or as a hard place where you need to grow strong, in order to survive in it.
There is tension between these two perspectives – and frankly both are right to a degree. If there are things of the external world that we can fix and change, to make it better, we most definitely should. However, until that’s accomplished, my money is on option two: make yourself strong enough to weather storms that will hit you and your family. Also – you don’t want end up being weak, physically and spiritually, because you live in a highly protected bubble. Bubbles tend to burst some day.
Everything starts with our own will, our own approach – if we allow ourselves to drift into a mind-set of fear, of feeling overwhelmed by the outside world, we will manifest a behaviour that reinforces that perspective. We will withdraw from people and from opportunities, we will be suspicious of the motives of others, we will see widespread oppression and danger – and like a cornered animal, we will scream and shout against that.
However, if we slowly build confidence in our ability to navigate the world, to interact with people, we will become a lot more comfortable in our relationships and in our work. When we see a problem, we won’t see a danger, but an opportunity to improve and fix something. If something is a problem for you, chances are it’s a problem also for others, who will cherish your attempt to fix it and will be drawn to you.
Nobody is born strong. Nobody is born perfect. Very few probably become either thing – but that’s not a good reason to sit back and avoid their pursuit. If you think you are currently weak and fragile, rest assured – you are not alone, and more importantly, you don’t have to be forever. You can change and you can get better. Responsibility is ultimately the desire and effort to travel these paths.
Jordan Peterson was a voice of great reason when it comes to responsibility, and the meaning that fills our lives by taking it. And responsibility is something that you have to actively take – it can’t be given to you. It’s your choice. And it’s hard to make choices – it’s easier not to, and to just drift.
My encouragement is to take a bit more responsibility every day, and improve our lives.
We can see things in many different ways, and we all have our own story; however, it’s my belief that we can come to a sensible agreement on most topics, or at least to a middle ground, provided that we are diligent and honest enough in exploring an issue in detail. Unfortunately, we generally don’t do that.
We delegate our thinking to people in the media that we decide to trust, and allow them to drive their narratives in our lives. My hope is that on issues of fundamental importance, such as historic truths, current affairs, morale, biology etc… we can do a bit of extra work for ourselves, and set our own foundations straight, before relying on the ideas of others. It’s just some extra work, exercising responsibility, that can help us orientate ourselves better in this world – and also create a better one.
That’s why there is a fine line with responsibility – you can’t quantify it. There is no defined measure of how much responsibility is available to us, we can always take more, if so we wish; but we generally don’t. And that is to the detriment of meaning in our life.
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