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The Power of Responsibility

May 9, 2012

Learning to take responsibility for yourself; for the life that you have created; for the decisions that you make is one of the most important things that you can do.  But where is this kind of responsibility learned?  For most people, responsibility is learned from their parents.

There is nothing, nothing like holding your child in your arms for the first time; looking down at her face; the perfect features; tiny fingers and toes.  The knowledge that you have created life is so awe inspiring that it takes your breath away and sends you into a world of awe and wonder from which you don’t emerge until you bring her home from the hospital and suddenly realize that not only have you created life, but now you’re responsible for it.  And you are not just responsible for today, or for this week, but for the next 18 years. It is then you realize that your life is never going to be the same again.

I still remember the day that my husband and I brought our brand new baby girl back from the hospital.  I took her out of the carrier and handed her to my husband while I unpacked my overnight bag.  When I came out he was still standing where I’d left him.  He looked at me and, in a stunned voice said “now what?”  It only took a moment before we were both laughing rather hysterically.

Now what indeed!

Now we become parents.

And becoming a parent is not a temporary role.  It’s not something that stops when your child turns 18 or goes to college, finally gets their own apartment, gets married or even has children of their own. Being a parent is something that will follow you for the rest of your life.

But it’s the concept of responsibility that comes with the title of “parent” that hits you right between the eyes, and it’s each parent’s interpretation of responsibility where things really get interesting.

For some the responsibility of being a parent becomes a power struggle; an attempt to control their child in order to ensure that they fit into a particular mold; that they become the kind of person that the parent believes that they should.  For others, the responsibility of becoming a parent means helping the child to become their own person; to take responsibility for themselves and to give them the tools to craft a life for themselves out of the raw materials of childhood. In short, it is your parents’ definition of responsibility that determines your own take on the subject.

Those whose parents were open with them; who allowed for the child’s own interests, skills and abilities to be valued; those whose parents encouraged them to take increasing amounts of responsibility for their own lives as they matured will find the idea of taking responsibility for creating their reality as a logical outgrowth of this process.

For those whose parents were controlling and domineering – even if it was with the best of intentions and the desire to protect the child from those things that might harm them – the idea of taking responsibility for your own life; of listening to your own heart when it comes to the decisions that you make can be a foreign one indeed.  They have become so conditioned to doing what they were instructed to do by their families; by their schools and governments and societies that the idea of taking responsibility for their own lives is about as familiar as the Arabic language, and inspires the same sort of fear-based avoidance.

Of course this does not mean that there is no hope for those whose parents brought them up to conform to the standards that they, their society or religion or government imposed on them.  It simply means that there are more layers to be peeled away before you can get down to the task of re-inventing yourself as the kind of person that you were meant to be.

Peeling away these layers can be a painful and time consuming process, and whether you choose to work through them yourself by reading self-help books, taking up meditation or chronologically journaling your life (and all of the bitterness and resentments that tend to surface during the process) or whether you choose to seek outside assistance in the form of a psychiatrist or spiritual counselor, it is well worth the effort and can lead to the kind of life that you have always wished for yourself.

It can also completely revolutionize the way that you view parenting and the importance of everything that you say and do to influence your child as well as the impact of every decision that you make that affects them.  It doesn’t matter if your child is two or twenty; your own ability to strip away those layers upon layers of conditioning in order to take responsibility for your own life can make a world of difference, not just for you, but for all the generations yet to come.

And that, my friends, is the true power of responsibility.

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