Responsibility is wanting to fix something so badly that you don't care that you didn't break it. So badly that you'd rather make others think that you did break it, if only that gives you a way to fix it.
People often feel that blame and fault means something bad, and it's incredibly hard to unlearn this. Mostly because this involves a really bad surprise, a narrative you disagree with, one that upsets you, and often people actually trying to punish you. But it's somewhat easy to deconstruct this.
If a penitentiary system in some country is magically designed to be maximally fair and only punishes the guilty people, paying them back according to what they have done, on the surface it would feel like a perfect system, because it restores justice. But first, what good is it if it doesn't succeed in fixing people's behavior so they don't commit new crimes? Second, how often do you find yourself in a situation when you've done bad things, but someone helped you fix them? And third, majority of the people in prison are criminals, and socializing further with them only repeats the cycle that led one to break the law initially.
So when one is lacking proper socialization to the point of ignoring basic laws, it won't really help to put full responsibility for their past on them. They will be unable to learn from it! Especially in a company of people who have already failed at this. What may make more sense is putting on them responsibility for their future instead, while showing exactly what they are missing out on.
This is called "restorative justice", and it made prisons in Norway so counter-intuitively helpful in rehabilitation of the prisoners. Not only do they get to know that social life can be enjoyable without crimes, they also discover that being socially functional opens up lots of different spheres of interest. And most importantly, they're learning to love people.
Similarly, Portugal managed to greatly reduce drug addiction by switching from punishment to care:
Drug addiction is something that will always exist. But by eliminating the threat of criminal penalties—and along with it, a great deal of stigma—it has become easier for people to seek treatment. Between 1998 and 2011, the number of people in drug treatment increased by over 60%.
Portugal has showed that, without spending significant sums, governments can give drug users the tools to put their lives back on track. But to do so, it will have to stop treating them like criminals.
How is this still relevant to responsibility at all? People wanted to help other people so bad that they took responsibility for them, even if it was risky, even if it looked unjust to care about criminals so much instead of seeking retribution. And it did pay off!
So it may be very helpful to unlearn the short-circuiting that happens in us when someone wrongly (or rightly) blames us for something. Instead of demanding truth and justice, instead of making other people admit they were wrong about us, why don't we try to switch to caring about them and being responsible for them?
There's also deep logical meaning in not fearing to absorb the blame. If there's someone who creates a problem I can't fix, and I leave it be, that feels reasonable. But what if I have a hidden talent that makes me the only person capable of fixing it, by inventing some novel approach? After all, most inventions were designed to solve problems their inventors didn't create! If they just kept sitting there waiting for the problematic person (or situation) to go away, it may have never been solved for everyone else either. So yes I'd rather blame myself for still not inventing a solution, and I'd rather keep taking ownership of the problem, trying to crack the puzzle for the sake of it, just because it's so damn challenging, and practically important.
But if that only leads to getting overwhelmed and anxious, there's something else that needs helping. It's the impression that there's some momentum not letting us let go of the negativity, like a slippery slope moving things to hell by inertia. The impression that if something bad has happened, we have no choice but to relive the consequences indefinitely, until the impact completely fades away.
There's no slippery slope in thinking, or in life. Any time you start caring about getting out, you can find something that will help you. Any time you can start thinking and feeling differently, there's no obligation to continue being sad, no rule to remain damaged. Human is infinitely flexible, just like our brain is, and we get to decide where we stop and where we start.
It's only a matter of defining the problem, formulating the key question, which is always an iterative, gradual process. You don't invent an elegant solution without having the nerves to keep dealing with the grind. But just like with talents, if you learn to apply due diligence, that becomes your new talent, and it can then be mastered while solving a real-life problem. Even if you don't solve it fully, your experience may be critically important for someone who comes after you, even if it still takes a lot of future people. But taking responsibility for your own, and other people's, future, is a solution to a lot of problems in itself, and makes us happier as we learn new things and eventually succeed.
One's personal level of responsibility is something other people can't forcibly change. We are absolutely free to decide how responsible we want to be at a given moment. If we have some answers to "what for?", that would be our motivation, be it a positive or a negative trend. But motivation does not appear from "I have no choice, I must follow the lead". Even if one is able to force oneself to be more responsible for a short period of time, it's not sustainable if it's not free. And the other way around: responsibility gives freedom.
One's level of responsibility can be measured by how many other people are assigned responsibility for existing problems. If one blames everyone else, such a paradigm is very dangerous, because given any amount of power, such a person would turn other people into victims by taking revenge. Usually, the group of people turned into victims is very different from the group of people assigned responsibility (because they are not accessible), which in turn is often different from actual guilty people (which are even less accessible, and may not even exist).
Of course being responsible doesn't mean that other people can't be responsible for problems. But the only productive way to discuss a problem and attempt to solve it is by taking maximum initial responsibility for the current state of things and checking what can be fixed or improved right away. Only when that repeatedly hits a wall built by others, it's useful to bring that up. But again, not as a way to blame others, but as a way to inspire them to help fixing the main issue. Only then people would be interested in doing the legwork.

Staff/SoftSkills/Responsibility last edited by feos on 8/12/2023 1:48 PM
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