From Responsibility for Your Actions to Ownership
The term ‘responsibility for your actions’ often seems to be equated with the word ‘blame’. When used this way, responsibility is an accusation of something that you haven't done well or failed to do. However in popular usage, the word ‘responsibility’ has another meaning which seems more specific and may also be more helpful for our psychological development.
Blame and accountability
I'll get to the other meaning of the word ‘responsibility’ a moment, but first, this isn't to say that you don't need to be accountable for the problems you cause, or that blame isn't something you should take when it is due to you. By the same token, neither should you take the blame for things that aren't your fault. To do this is to take away due accountability from somebody else. Taking the blame when it's due to you, and allowing other people take the blame when it's their fault is a sign of maturity.
Owning the problem – even without blame
The other way that we can use the word ‘responsibility’, is in thinking about taking ownership of a problem. In this sense, when you take responsibility you are effectively saying “I will fix this problem; I may not have been the cause of the problem, but I will fix it”. When you do this, and it is an act of free choice and not a habitual way of responding to all difficulties, you are effectively standing up as a leader This is an even more sophisticated way of demonstrating maturity. I remember vividly the first time someone demonstrated this to me years ago.
The way we interact
One of the things that people often address in psychotherapy is the way that their actions and the actions of other people interact. Through a process of exploration, we can become more clear on what happened and who was the cause of the things that happened. To do this is the first step towards laying it to rest, so you can both move on.
– Tim Hill
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