What do you think of when you hear the word “responsibility?” I hear my mother’s voice sternly questioning, “Who is responsible for this mess?” As badly as I wanted to blame my little brother, I knew it was my doing. The responsible thing to do was to own my actions. Besides, I knew I would be in more trouble if my mom found out I was blaming someone else for something I had done.
A responsible person accepts the consequences of their own actions and decisions. They consciously make decisions that seek to improve themselves or to help others. I like Steven Covey’s insights:
Look at the word responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.
I remember enforcing this concept with my five-year-old son after he accidentally broke a window. My goal was to make sure he knew I was not mad at him or that he was in trouble. None the less, the window was broken, and he was the one that broke it. I helped him accept the blame and find a way to make things right.
Responsibility is a character trait that can be acquired or strengthened. We can all learn to be more responsible and help others within our stewardship to become more responsible. Children learn by watching adults. When they see their parents, teachers, leaders, etc. demonstrating responsible behavior, they are more likely to model what they see. Just like my five-year-old son, we have all made mistakes or said things we wish we could take back. The point is to assume the consequences and learn and grow from them. A highly developed sense of responsibility does not come over night. It starts with a decision to improve and a committed effort. When we or the children in our lives make less than responsible choices, it is time for an honest evaluation of the action and a renewed commitment to do better.
Becoming a responsible person requires each of us to make choices in alignment with many other PACE character traits: Respect, Citizenship, Caring, Fairness, Honesty, Diligence, Trustworthiness, Courage and Integrity. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Verne Reed – Verne recently retired from 43 years as an educator for children with special needs. He is currently the PACE president for the 2019 – 2020 school year. He and his wife, Ann, are volunteers at the Airway Heights Correctional Facility.