Posts Tagged ‘responsible’

Freedom is being responsible for nothing — plus every single choice we make.

If you and I were to slip into a crack and fall to the center of the earth, at the center of the precise center of the earth, we would be weightless. With nothing between us and the middle, there would be no gravitational pull on us, so we would weigh nothing, which of course we wouldn’t realize nor would we even remark on to each other. It would be too hot for chattiness — over 5,000 degrees — about as hot at the surface of the roiling, roasting, egg-frying sun, and so we would just bake together — weightless.

Cool! In a warm, high-pressure, floaty kind of way.

This postulated, in other words, say you and I do fall into a chute that leads to the earth’s core, lets agree to something. Let’s agree that if you don’t want to go there, it is your option to snag a root on the way down, or fall on your ice axe, if you have one. I want to experience 5,000 degrees and weightlessness and view the molten core within the core, but if you don’t then that is your choice.

Here is the thing in life. The places we go, the weightlessness we experience, the temperatures we allow ourselves, the self-arrestments we pull off, the times we choose to fall into a new landscape — these are up to each of us individually.

I’m thinking more and more these days: I am responsible, and you are too, for what we choose, and for where we are.

I am responsible, we are responsible, they are responsible and everyone else is responsible too! We are, the whole lot of us, choosers, travelers, Voortrekkers. Like the Afrikaan Voortrekkering pioneers, we choose to voyage toward the interior, to be “those who pull ahead,” or not.

I’m thinking of staying home less. I am crazed for the interior. I am wild for the core of things.

This summer I trekked to the beach. I hauled along some books and food; I ate the food; I ignored the books; I stared blankly at the ocean. I needed that big, bright blue expanse of liquid to leach from me a couple of pseudo-defamations, one or two persistent self-incriminations, a baker’s dozen addictive infatuations and a handful of snarled and tangled minor intimidations–and such.

Why? Why go there? Because I am responsible. I am responsible for the health of my psyche. I am responsible for where I go and what it does to my soul. I know this, and these days I am prepared to fight for every, freakin’, psychologically healthy moment possible.

I am going to the gym this afternoon to run until my heart pounds so hard I know I am alive. I am going to do this because I accept the premise that I become a very slightly different person with every choice I make, with every place I go, with everything I allow my soul to experience.

I am looking for opportunities these days to fall into deep, exhilarating, life-changing cracks of personal responsibility — cracks like God, love, justice, pain.

Recently I put myself up close to a person in extreme psychological pain. Why? They needed me, and mostly, I needed them, to remind me that life is full of extreme pain that must be attended to, that must be acknowledged, that must be endured, that must be experienced. Extreme pain is certain to make us temporarily insane, but afterwards, we may be able to move into a different future, knowing what we can only know after living in 5,000 degrees of mental anguish. What we know, after such heat, is the loss of weight, perhaps even the heavy fear and anxiety and selfishness that have kept us from rising up, and floating.

On the other side of responsibility, of our responsibility for engaging extreme experiences, experiences like meeting God, doing justice, choosing to love, being healthy, embracing other people’s pain — there is a strange and wonderful landscape with a super-animated kind of beauty — it’s weightlessness.

I’m Voortrekking toward it.


I am taking responsibility for the health of my own soul and of others.

Do you want to go with me?

Places carry symbolic content.  The content settles. The content changes.

The woods I grew up in the Midwest are a beautiful wild place in my mind — tan deer in  green fields in the late blue evenings, green striped bass hiding under soggy brown tree roots in silver streams we fished in, wild dark brown  morels popping up by decaying black logs in the light green spring, dry oak and elm leaves crunching as I walked through them in the winter, fire flies blinking off and on in the field in front of the house.

The  home in Southern California that my wife and I bought while my children were growing up is in my mind a, safe, clean, cozy, fireplaced refuge —  bedrooms where I pushed little shoes on my babies’ feet,  a tile-countered kitchen where we celebrated their birthday parties with cake and ice cream on bright paper plates, new sidewalks outside on which I walked them to grade school and back, holding their small, sweaty hands tightly. I now rent this home  to someone else. It is their home now. It has changed, but it will always be for me the place where my babies grew into young women.

The church I  attend is an artist’s palate, a old Spanish Revival building that our congregation has committed to repaint, to re-stucco, to redecorate, to re-cabinet, to re-beautify. It has had a tough history during some of its last 30 years,  but it has good DNA too. I was baptized there. I was married there. It is a place of beginnings  for me.  Now it is becoming a  place of giving for me, of doing for other people,  of opening the doors to a new set of people in my life.

The city I live in here in Southern California  used to be  for me a place to drive in, to walk in, to eat in, to shop in, to make friends in, to make a home it. But this has changed. I have lived here a long time. I have both thrived here and I have been broken here. My city has been a safe place; it has been an unsafe place.

 I have seen it change, and I have seen myself change.  I have lived here trying to suck sommething from the ground, trying to add something to myself from the beautiful, master-planned  neighborhood I live in.  That is changing.   I am beginning to want to give something back to my city. I am beginning to have odd feelings concerning my city and the people who live around me. I am beginning to  love the people in my city, and I am starting to take responsibility for them.

I feed them, cloth them, teach them, write for them and I try to  take them under my wing and comfort them. And I try each day to take the people of my city asside and  call beauty out of them.

I am outnumbered. I am small and weak. My limits are extremely obvious.

I am entirely undiscouraged by that.

I embrace today as another day to make a momumental difference here.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.


It could be argued that sometimes we aren’t accountable enough to ourselves.

Students not doing their homework, moms not  taking care of their own needs, employees not doing their assignments, many of us not living out our vision for our  lives  – it’s common.

Recently, someone told me they would do something. They didn’t do it. Asked about it, they didn’t think it was a big deal. But it was important, from two angles. We missed a good opportunity to involve people we needed to involve, and they missed the responsibility to have integrity, to do what they said they would do.

 I said something to this person later, pointing out the missed opportunity. Oddly, they weren’t at all upset by their own omission. A casual, relaxed atmosphere of excuses and minimization reigned. I said what I thought anyway, “It isn’t loving or responsible to not do what you said you would.” As a result, they completed the task and followed through nicely on something else they had agreed to do.

Nothing new here. We’ve all seen this before.  I’ve worked with people who didn’t do their job well for years. It created a mess of missed opportunities and misunderstandings. 

Why don’t people own their work? It’s complicated. Each case might have a unique root cause — insecurity, weakness of character, laziness, sabotaging inclinations due to jealousy, cultural expectations, disabling neediness, perhaps a history of not being well-parented, incompetency. Often the roots of irresponsibility rest in fear. Fear is huge, the fear of making mistakes, the fear of negative feedback, the fear that we can’t be what the job expects us to be or has changed to be.  Fear creates inertia; fear disables.

But a responsible independence that  owns our issues is such a good alternative, so empowering. Recently, I spoke with someone who has failed his family. He admitted that he has made mistakes, that he has engaged in harmfully addictive behaviors, that he hasn’t valued his wife’s feelings, that he has caused a lot of pain. It was refreshing, and as a result of his honesty, he is now changing his behaviors.

An internal mode of self-assessment and self-correction is a mark of high maturity, but it doesn’t seem to be in the defining mode of many modern adults. Too often we operate with a culture of casual excuse; we don’t do what we say we are going to do and that seems to be okay.

It’s not. It’s not loving or mature or professional to be irresponsible.  

I have a friend in the military. He says irresponsibility has become a huge problem in his branch of the service. Many people don’t do their  jobs with high quality, and they won’t own their mistakes and fix the damage done by them. When things go wrong there is often a lot of excusing and blaming others and avoiding  responsibility. Someone he worked with spent money from someone else’s account. Once caught, the person excused the behavior and didn’t pay back what was taken.

But the alternatives to self-accountability aren’t attractive. They are punishment and being brought to task.  But standing over people to make them do their jobs, micromanaging each step they take, punishing them for not coming through, babysitting them on the job – when we reach this level of dependent functioning, something needs to dramatically change. We have a core motivational problem.

At this point, leadership must reassess their approach and find positive, proactive, not negative, ways to help people become independently responsible.  Motivation to work is best inspired, as well as required. Therapy, re-educating, creating win-win solutions, retraining, creating collaborative networks, helping people get excited about using their unique skills – this is the responsibility of a leadership facing inertia and incompetency and resistance. 

But the best solution to irresponsibility is when we each become accountable to ourselves. It is when we grow up and become independent in healthy ways. We can vastly improve our little corner of life by being self-accountable. This is maturity, to come to the point where we self-assess and self-correct when needed.

Here are some things that it would be so wise and loving to people around us to take responsibility for. To be operative they must become personal, our “I” statements of responsibility:

I am responsible to do what I say I am going to do.

I am responsible not to harm others. If I do, I am responsible to fix that the best I can.

I am responsible to do what I am assigned in my job to do, to do it efficiently, creatively and with a high degree of quality.

I am responsible to love the people I work with, live with and make a family with.

 I am responsible to identify my physical, spiritual and emotional needs and to figure out how to meet these in healthy ways that don’t harm me or others.

I am responsible to speak up when something is unfair or unjust and do what I can to change it.

I am responsible for all my actions, thoughts and feelings and the consequences that flow from them.

I am responsible for my spiritual health, to hear and know and act on what is true, good and right.

I am accountable to my own values and standards. If I say I believe something, then I should act on it.

I am responsible to know and defend my boundaries. I am responsible for what I let other people do to me.

I am responsible find solutions to my own problems or live wisely with the problems I can’t solve.

I am responsible to set my goals and priorities and then to move toward them the best I can.

There are more. I’m sure we can all think of more. All we have to do is remember when we failed someone or they failed us to add to this list. We should think about these things. Then we should get busy living them.

On a recent evening I asked one of my daughters if she had done something that she had agreed to do. She had. Peace reigned between us. Self-accountability, independent responsibilty – these are very good for relationships.