What is responsibility?

Talking or really taking responsibility?  

This article tries to throw light upon and answer the question "what is responsibility?", a key factor in personal development.  

Most of us have an idea of the definition of responsibility. It is a kind of trustworthiness, you are answerable to others for your actions and behavior. Moreover, we have duties and obligations that are our responsibility. We, not someone else, must do them. We have moral and also social responsibilities.

One example is all the actions we either do or do not do towards each other in a society. As we all now, it varies depending on culture and tradition. An action which is morally irresponsible in one culture, is acceptable in another. But generally, humanity have a great deal of moral, social and human responsbility in common.

However, the question - what is responsibility -  like so many other on this personal development site, concludes that taking responsibility is something you do in your life because you choose to.

We all make choices all the time, and a responsible person does not have to ask "What is responsibility?" in every situation.

Personal responsibility means that you make your choice based on your own true values.

We often say one thing and act differently. That is why I wrote "talking responsibility or taking responsbility" in the headline. It is easy to talk about ethics and morality. When we do the talk, we know exactly what is the right or wrong thing to do. Especially when it comes to poking our noses into other people´s businesses.

When it comes to atually taking personal responsibility, it is not so black or white anymore. Let me give you an example of the complexity of the "what is responsibility question". 

In a recent TV documentary, I saw a young pregnant woman who was a chain smoker. She told the journalist that her mother was a smoker, so was her boyfriend, friends, cousins, uncles, aunts and everyone else she knew. She was constantly smoking despite being pregnant.

The program was about changing habits and indirectly raised the question about what responsibility is. This young woman went to a midwife, a specialist in quitting smoking. Her job was to provide the facts so that her clients could make informed choices about their smoking.

The young woman was very reluctant to take in the information and told the midwife that by smoking she was actually helping her baby to improve its heart capacity! The midwife was chocked. She had never heard that argument before.

Obviously the opposite is true, which the midwife proved by letting the chain smoking pregnant girl blow into a device which measured how much poison the baby was exposed to in the womb. There are more than 4ooo different toxins in cigarettes. The screen blinked in a warning red, the level of carbon monoxide was several times higher than what is considered safe for a baby.

The young woman then said she was frightened and said she realized that what she was doing to her baby was wrong. Responsibly she said that her baby had no choice, but she had. She wanted to quit smoking. So after the "talking responsibility", she had to go to "taking responsibility" which proved a lot harder.

First of all she set a date for quitting smoking one week later. Postponing this life deciding moment another week.

Then she did not return the calls from the midwife anymore and finally she dropped out from the program. Acting on her decision and taking responsibility was too hard.

In conclusion, there is a huge difference between word and action. So when you ask yourself what responsibility means to you, you better be as honest as you can. You are 100% responsible for everthing in your life. You choose. You decide. And if you carry a baby, it is your responsibility to decide wisely for your child too.

Irresponsible people blame circumstances, other people or the conviction that they cannot change a bad habit. Bad habits too have been chosen by ourselves at some point. Who is going to make a new choice, you or someone else? Irresponsible behavior means letting other people decide for you. 

To illustrate this point I have chosen this quote by Stephen R. Covey which to a certain extent answers the question "what is responsibility": 

"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."
(Stephen R. Covey)

What is responsibility? Let´s sum it up:

  • the ability respond - not react
  • blame free attitude
  • conscious choices
  • value based responsibility

Moreover, I agree with the great personal development teacher Jim Rohn in his quote on responsbility:

"The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, "If you will take care of me, I will take care of you." Now I say, "I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me."
(Jim Rohn)

That is the main message of this article about what responsibility is!


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