Take Responsibility

Stop the buck in its tracks.

“It’s not my fault.” How often have you heard—or said—this? Everyone wants to blame their problems on someone or something else: their parents, their socioeconomic status, their schooling, their boss, their friends, the big banks, big businesses, racists, sexists, special-interest groups, self-serving politicians ….

Actually, this isn’t just a modern trend. People have been trying to wriggle out of responsibility since God asked Adam a direct question: “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Millennia of excusing, covering, evading, shirking, shrugging and rationalizing later, we have elevated avoiding responsibility to an art form.

Stop. Your life is your responsibility. Accept that fact!

Anyone who goes through life focusing on what other people aren’t doing for him, what they owe him, or the raw deal life gave him, never grows up. In some form, he forfeits responsibility for his life.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child,” the Apostle Paul wrote, “but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The man who believes society owes him a comfortable living still thinks like a child. The person who grouses about how unfair the world is, and how riches and privilege are just a matter of luck or corruption, still thinks like a child. The woman whose failures are always someone else’s fault is stuck in childish thinking. The individual content to live off of his parents’ largesse or a government handout still understands as a child. The man focused more on what the world should do for him than on what he can contribute to others is not yet thinking like an adult.

Maturing means you move from deflecting blame to accepting responsibility. You move from being a passive observer to an initiator. You move from victim to doer. You move from expecting things to providing things. Maturing means seizing your God-given power to direct your own life, to welcome challenge, to surmount obstacles, to achieve victories.

Blaming other people for your problems is a trap. Of course other people’s actions affect you, but don’t deceive yourself. God says the person who is responsible for you is you. “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden” (Galatians 6:4-5). You must carry your own load. In fact, God wants you to go beyond that, and to reach out to help others carry their burden as well (verse 2).

“[W]hatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (verse 7). If you don’t like what you’re reaping, take a hard look at what you’ve been sowing. And start making some changes.

God is radically pro-responsibility! Think about the command in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” That is God’s way: Everyone who is able must work in order to eat. If we followed this command, there would be whining, pleading, maybe even yelling—but in the end, everyone would take responsibility, everyone would work, and everyone would eat.

Our modern world, intoxicated with government benefits and welfare programs, has come to view that as cruel. We believe we have a better way: Give the meal to the irresponsible sluggard. Who cares if it stunts his growth, his maturity, his productivity, his dignity and even his happiness?

God says if a man does not provide for his family, let alone himself, his religion is worthless (1 Timothy 5:8). Is this cruel of God? Or is He trying to teach you to become useful and skillful? Does He want you to suffer, or does He want to make you better, stronger and happier?

Taking responsibility means the buck stops with you. It means taking ownership: You cause something to happen, you do all you can to make it a success, and you accept blame if it fails. If this is your priority, you will become dependable and trustworthy, fulfilling your commitments to others. If it is not, you will be unreliable, unpredictable, distracted, needful of reminders, always showing up late; you’ll consume more time, attention and resources than you produce.

Shirking responsibility for your mistakes is another trap. Until you own up to your own failures, you’ll remain stuck in them. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Confess your error! Then forsake it: Make a different choice the next time. And teach your children to do the same. Don’t let them get away with passing blame and sidestepping guilt. Teach them to be upfront about their mistakes.

Accepting responsibility builds momentum toward greater responsibility. God wants to give us a lot of responsibility. He is watching to see what we do with what we have. When He gives resources or talents, He wants results. The man who produces the most results is the one God can entrust with more responsibility (Matthew 25:28).

Someday you will have to stand before God and give account (Romans 14:10-12). At that point you can’t look around, pointing fingers of blame at others. Those people will have to answer for themselves. And you, face to face with God, will have to answer for yourself. Don’t wait until then to start. Take responsibility. As you do, you’ll grow up and fulfill much more of your God-given potential.