Responsibility and Awareness

October 6th, 2011

How far does responsibility stretch? Your own life and actions? Care for your immediate family? Your extended family? As a parent, you might imagine that your job is done when the kids leave home. But they keep coming back! And the family keeps getting larger. Now your family includes grandkids, and in-laws and their extended family. Is extended family the extent of your responsibility? Do you have a responsibility to your communities, to your nation, or beyond your nation and even beyond the species? Pushing it even further, do you have a responsibility to future generations?

I saw a bumper sticker that said, “I am responsible for all my actions, except the ones that are someone else’s fault.”

During the early stages of the economic crisis in 2008, Oscar Rogers did a skit on Saturday Night Live called “Fix it”. He said there was a simple solution to the problem- FIX IT. He said there were three steps to the solution.

1. Fix
2. It

He said the light at the end of the tunnel had broken, and “somebody needs to crawl down to the end of that tunnel and FIX IT!”

It was a comment on what many of us were doing; pointing fingers, ascribing blame and waiting for someone to FIX IT. If this long, drawn out crisis has taught us anything, it surely must be that no one person and no one thing will fix this situation. It will require a lot of people taking responsibility over a long period of time to fix it.

Personal responsibility is forward looking. Blame is backward looking.

It seems to be human nature to expect someone else to FIX IT. “Somebody do something” is the victim’s mantra. Susan Jeffers said, “Are you a “victim,” or are you taking responsibility for your life?” I keep Oscar Roger’s voice in my head whenever I lapse into thinking like a victim. Waiting for someone else to FIX IT is a powerless perspective.

But where are the boundaries? Where does responsibility start and finish? From one perspective EVERYTHING that arises is coming out of your awareness. There is nothing other than your awareness. So from that perspective, you are responsible for everything that arises. Your awareness reveals that you are connected, all the way back and all the way forward, from east to west, north to south. No action is isolated, and no person is separate from the whole, so taking responsibility for yourself IS taking responsibility for the whole, and taking responsibility for the whole IS taking responsibility for yourself. This is a challenging thought.

There was a therapist in Hawaii who claimed to be healing the most damaged psychiatric patients without even seeing them. He would look at their charts, and do distance healing with the ancient Hawaiian technique called  ho’oponopono. He said that everything he read on their charts represented something within himself that needed healing. When he healed those parts of himself, he healed the patients. In his words, he said, “I was healing the part of me that created them.” He used phrases like I’m sorry and I love you. According to many reports, the hospital was completely transformed at the same time as he was performing his distance healing.

You may be a skeptic, or a believer. That’s not important for this current topic. The important thing is that there is at least a partial truth in the therapist’s approach. We can ALL take MORE responsibility for what we see as broken in the world than we generally do. Let me explain by way of a simple but powerful story.

A young girl is badgering her father who is trying to read the paper. He becomes so exasperated that, in a fit of desperation, he tears a picture of a map of the world out of the paper, cuts it up in pieces and sets the girl the challenge of putting it back together again. Much to his surprise she comes back to him quickly with the map all in place. The father asks her how she put it together so quickly. At this point the girl turns the paper over and shows that the other side has a picture of a man on it. “I put the man together,” she said, “and the world came out all right.”

The best way you can take responsibility for what you see as broken in the world, is to take responsibility for putting yourself back together, healing all the broken places and becoming a healthy, functioning human being. The more you put yourself right, the more the world will come out right.

This is the inner work of change. We need outer actions too. But it begins with the inner work.

As long as there is something you can do to address problems in the world, you can take responsibility. And there is ALWAYS something you can do. Therefore you can ALWAYS take responsibility; both by tending to the broken places inside of yourself, and also healing the holes in the world.

The Dalai Lama said,

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.

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  1. Yvonne says:

    Thought provoking. Thank you

  2. Ann says:

    I think the people participating in Occupy Wall Street are taking responsibility by the very action of telling the cheats and crooks that we will not take it any more, that the days of sitting passively by while corporatists wage class warfare upon us is over, that the 99% have begun to fight back.

  3. ian says:

    you might be right Ann. I hope so.

  4. Yes. This post is exactly what’s in my head right now. I, too, am concerned about the Wall St protests. Are they appealing to pity, or are they appealing to virtue? Are they talking about their needs and unhappiness, or are they talking about something greater than themselves? FYI I’m going to be re-posting that story about the girl and the map, with reference to Soulseeds, of course.

  5. Responsibility is a lost art today! We are always looking for someone else to fix our problems. No one person can fix the world, but I can make a small change right now that will affect my family and then when they go to work or school I hope that change spreads. It may not fix the world, but it sets a better example and I can guarantee you that pointing fingers doesnt fix iit either. God gave us life so we could be shining examples and live the best life we can live. Pointing fingers and waiting for someone else to fix me isn’t living my best life.

  6. David Haines says:

    Ian, thank you for such a wonderful, thought provoking post. Upon reading your article, the famous quote by Mahatma Ghandi – “Be the change you want to see in the world” came to mind.

    Thanks again Ian! I’ll be coming here much more for your brilliant insights!

    David Haines 

  7. Ashley N. says:

    I too had that same Ghandi quote in mind. Very interesting post (that I will be Tweeting) and I am happy for the mental challenge. “What does it mean to be responsible and how can my actions and reactions as well as daily living make a difference in my life, those around me, and essentially make a difference on the world scope?” Thank you, Ian.

  8. ian says:

    Thanks for your comments David and Ashley- the Ghandi quote is AWESOME

  9. ian says:

    Well said Heather- thank you

  10. HS says:

    A great post and call to action on a personal level.   Now I need to go back and read the other posts in the series!  

  11. “I put the man together and the world came out all right”
    Genius in the truest sense. She channeled a truth rather than ‘attacked it and hog-tied it’ with her intellect.
    This is a great post. Love it. I feel healthier already.

  12. I really enjoy reading your blog.  Great food for thought and inspiration. 

  13. ian says:

    thanks Martha

  14. […] Archive » Responsibility and Awareness Posted by MagMan on 23/10/2011 in Papers | Subscribe posted by friends:  (3) @soulseedz: “Somebody do something” is the […]

  15. Jodi Aman says:

    This is beautiful.  Do you have a reference for the Hawaiian Psychiatrist?  I have been looking for this.  A gift for me today.
    Thank you!
    Jodi Aman

  16. ian says:

    hi Jodi, google Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and Ho’oponopono. Enjoy the inspiration.

  17. […] Read on: Responsibility and awareness […]

  18. Nice post, Ian. I so firmly believe in personal responsibility. After taking responsibility for my own healing, I healed and found inner peace. I then experienced peace in the world around me. When we can accept responsibility for ourselves, we can stop blaming others and we move forward, just as you said… Nice post.

    Carolyn CJ Jones 

  19. shereen says:

    Amazing piece Ian,, Thank you.

  20. Rob says:

    If what you see is ‘victims’ and ‘non responsibility’ then what are you healing within yourself?

  21. KK Martin says:

    We are all just domino’s. Effecting the Universe one action at a time. Thanks for sharing your gift and writing the blog.
    Following what you know will profoundly effect one letter at a time one word at a time ….one human being at a time…..KK 

  22. Carm says:

    This post reminded me of the hilarious (but thought-provoking) commercial that reflects exactly what you’re stating:
    Makes you shake your head…

  23. Heulwen Renshaw says:

    Responsibility..yes, within reason, but not to the extent where one is running around silly trying to please everyone, that only goes to prove there is no time to think for oneself. It also brings to mind ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Again..within reason.  If there is enough time to do everything..and knowing that we have to ‘make’ time sometimes, then it can be done ‘with love’, but any strain on yourself trying to do the ‘right’ thing..can turn out to be the wrong thing and for the wrong reason.  Love your blogs by the way, they must take up a lot of your time…but don’t stop!

  24. Heulwen Renshaw says:

    I loved the story about the Hawaiian therapist…I can believe this. My brother can heal people, he meditates too.
    The little girls’ story is so, so true, I love this. 

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