We must exchange the philosophy of excuse, what I am is beyond my control, for the philosophy of responsibility. – Barbara Jordan
What does that mean?
This is a fairly straight-forward quote. It urges us to quit making excuses. There is always a reason, something outside ourselves, that caused things to not work out. It’s never our fault. At least that’s the way quite a number of people seem to operate.
The quote urges us to take responsibility. To own both the good and that which is less than good. To own our actions and our reactions. To me, it also implies (based on the middle section) that we should also take responsibility for the things which are not within our control.
I also like the use of the word philosophy in this quote. In this context I take it to mean the pursuit of wisdom and moral self-discipline. In short, it is urging us to pursue wisdom through responsibility, not sink in the lack of wisdom by way of excuse.
Why is responsibility important?
How easy is it to blame someone else for your misfortune? Even if the other person cheated you, that is an excuse. Your responsibility was to make it hard or impossible for them to cheat. You failed, they succeeded. Take responsibility, or you will learn the wrong lesson.
A lack of responsibility leads down a path of misinformation, and into a bizarre world where facts aren’t true and everything is up-side-down. If you take responsibility for being cheated, you can learn to protect yourself and try to make sure it never happens again.
If you refuse to take responsibility, the lesson you learn is that others, possibly generalized by a distinguishing characteristic, always cheat. It also reinforces the worst possible lie, that you are helpless. While none of us can do everything all the time, no one is helpless unless they chose to be so.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Responsibility, for the purpose of this post, is the opposite of helplessness and excuse making. They go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Have you ever met someone who saw themselves as helpless do anything other than make excuses? And have you ever seen someone take responsibility amid a flurry of excuses?
So how do we get away from this form of learned helplessness? I refer to it as a learned behavior, as I do not believe it is human nature to be helpless. If helplessness was part of human nature, we would have died out as a species a long time ago, right?
From what I have seen, learned helplessness happens when a person determines that the easiest way to get something is to pretend to be helpless. They get a reward, and that reinforces the perceived benefits of helplessness. Pretty soon, they start finding other ways to use it to their advantage.
Think back to grade school, when certain people were called on to answer a question. Some answered quickly, others fumbled around until the teacher moved on to a different student. Acting helpless got the teacher to call on someone else. Relief and joy are associated with being helpless. And so it begins.
I have a lot of experience with this as both my kids have used this tactic at various points in their lives. My son has pretty much outgrown it, but my daughter is still blond and can bat the eyelashes and play helpless with the best of the Hollywood actresses.
Unfortunately, she still gets some benefit from it, and it has become a bit of a habit for her. It will take some time, but she is improving. Eventually we will get rid of the “helpless girl” attitude and get her fully engaged and responsible for her actions as well as for what happens to her.
As an example, about a year ago, I was involved in a car accident. It was absolutely the fault of the other person, passing in a no passing zone. However, I bear the responsibility for not having noticed sooner and not having reacted with more precision. Only that portion is my responsibility, the rest was that of the other person. I hope that makes sense.
Where in your life do you tend to make excuses? Where in your life is there room to take a little more responsibility for what you do, or what happens to you? You don’t have to take the blame for every bad thing that has ever happened, but you should understand that you played some part, and take responsibility for what you did or failed to do, right?
For each of the areas of your life where you are making too many excuses, think about what benefit you are gaining by not taking responsibility. Then consider what you could gain by actually responsibility. Could you gain some confidence, some prestige, some self-worth?
If you can find a better outcome by taking responsibility than by making excuses, you will have a reason to start changing your habits, right? What are your reasons going to be, how will you motivate yourself to be more responsible?
From: Twitter, @BJohn8089
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/barbarajor387652.html
Photo by DaveOnFlickr
Happy Birthday to Representative Barbara Jordan, born 21 February, 1936.