Defining Responsibility

boy and girl answering questions on white paper

According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the primary definition of Responsible (adjective) is, “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control or management (often followed by “to” or “for”).” The primary definition for Responsibility (noun) is “the state or fact of being responsible.”

Just about everyone agrees that it’s a good thing to be responsible, but not everyone agrees about what “responsibility” means, even with the definitions above. Questions abound. Are you a responsible person? What does it mean to you to be responsible? Does it mean doing what is expected of you? Keeping your promises? Being a good provider? Being true to your word?

All of these things are important, but being responsible means more than that. When it comes right down to it, we are, each of us, responsible for absolutely everything in our lives – all of the successes, and all of the failures, too.

If you don’t accept responsibility for your life, you are likely to just shrug off your failures thinking you have nothing to learn from them. If you don’t take full responsibility for your life, you will never be happy, because no one can make you happy but you.

You might wonder, then, if you are responsible for illness and adversity, too. Well, you are certainly not responsible for earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes, or the inattentive driver who sideswipes your car. But you are, without a doubt, responsible for how you respond to these things – and whether or not you choose to learn from them and grow.

Taking responsibility for your life gives you the freedom to take risks and make mistakes, and that’s a great feeling. Of course, it also means you need to be prepared to take the consequences of your risks and mistakes. There are two sides to the responsibility coin, and the other side is accountability.

It is difficult to grow very much at all if you are not willing to accept responsibility for your life. But if you are willing, there really is no limit to how far you can go.