All over the news last week was the reports of the child who got into the gorilla exhibition at the Cincinnati Zoo. I’ve read countless stories, watched the video, listened to the 911 calls, posted about it and had a healthy discussion or two with friends about what happened.
During one of the debates, I realized what was bothering me so much about this incident. It was the fact that in all the things I had heard and read, never once did the boys mother take any responsibility for what had happened.
She never said anything like, “I should have kept a closer eye on him, or I should have held his hand after he showed so much interest in getting a closer view.”
Nope, not a peep.
And, this is why this incident upsets me so much.
What Ever Happened To Personal Responsibility?
Today, for whatever the reason, people don’t take responsibility for their actions. All you hear are phrases like, ‘it wasn’t my fault,’ ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ ‘It was __________ fault.’
Sometimes things just happen to us through no fault of our own. But more often than not the unfortunate things that occur are directly in proportion to some action or inaction we took.
I grew up during a time when we would chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
That mantra sent a clear message that you and you alone were responsible for your own behavior, and you should ignore people who call you names. You alone are responsible for how you feel. Therefore, words can’t hurt you.
But somewhere along the way we’ve shifted away from the notion of personal responsibility and instead put blame on everyone from our parents to the government to total strangers for our troubles.
Most of the time in situations, there is more than one person at fault as in the case of the Cincinnati Zoo incident.
But as a society, we seem to favor placing ALL the blame on someone other than ourselves even when we clearly played a role in a terrible outcome.
Not taking responsibility is less demanding, less painful and means less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay.
But here’s the thing, when you blame others, you give up your power to change.
And that’s what I’d like to focus on – the power of change.
We all make mistakes, but if we fail to take responsibility for them we can never move towards changing out circumstances and therefore our life.
It reminds me of when I was staring down the barrel of my home being foreclosed.
If I had blamed my unemployment situation, or the credit card companies for giving me credit, or any other person for my problems, I would never have found the solutions I needed to become debt free.
Using self-justifications only distort reality.
The more you use them, the more you create an alternate universe for yourself.
You end up losing your ability to make good choices, as the information you’re using to do so is warped.
This can keep you from the people and pursuits that could have been good for you – if only you had been able to see them clearly for what they were.
How To Take Responsibility For Your Actions
Want to become better at taking responsibility for your actions and choices? Here are a few tips to help you on your journey:
Realize that you cannot place the blame on others for the choices you make.
Understand it’s ok to make mistakes. No one will think less of you. On the contrary, you will earn the respect of others for admitting your errors.
Seek to improve your self-esteem. When your self-esteem is high, your self-perception and self-worth is up there too and therefore there’s no need to pretend to be something you’re not. There’s no more need to feel sorry for yourself. There are no more feelings of inferiority.
Build your self-confidence. When you are confident in your abilities, you won’t become defensive when you make a mistake. Owning your contribution to a situation and taking responsibility becomes natural.
Giving of yourself in service to others teachers empathy and compassion, characteristics that helps one to overcome self-centeredness.
Learn ways to let go of fear. Fear can create insecurities.
Accept who you are and learn love yourself unconditionally.
Learn how to see things objectively without bias and prejudice.
Let go of feelings of victimization. Learn to see yourself as a victor and not a victim.
So my friends, the next time you make a mistake big or small, don’t shy away from taking responsibility for your actions. Instead, step towards it and realize it’s an opportunity to do better the next time.
That’s the only way we can grow into the people we want to be.