On Responsibility

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl
A person with good values behaves responsibly. The responsibility to tell the truth, to be polite and to keep my room clean was instilled in me very early in life. As I matured, doing my best in school, taking care of my younger siblings and keeping my word were added to the mix. As an adult, responsibilities piled up: maintaining gainful employment, paying the bills, providing for my family, etc. Responsible performance is highly regarded. Irresponsibility is evidence of seriously flawed values.

Lately I’ve come to realize that it’s also my responsibility to have a good handle on my “response-ability.” How I respond to any situation or stimulus is determined by my ability to purposely choose my response. Instead of emotionally reacting to some “trigger” and then blaming my conduct on circumstances, preconditioning or other people, I must fully accept that my behavior is a product of my own conscious choice, based on my values.

If I am reactive, I am driven by my feelings, circumstances and conditions. If the weather is good, do I feel good? If it isn’t, does my attitude suffer? What about the social “weather?” When people treat me well, do I feel well? When people don’t, do I become defensive or protective? If I am reactive, my emotional life is not under my own control, and that is behaving irresponsibly.

I want to be a response-able. I want to be driven by carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values. I will probably always be influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But my goal is to live responsibly by consistently responding to stimuli with a value-based choice.

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