Part of taking full responsibility for our lives is knowing what is ours and what isn’t. People who continually take responsibility for what is not theirs will eventually burn out or feel deeply resentful. It takes great wisdom to know where your responsibilities with your parents, children, partners, co-workers and friends end and theirs begin.
In our desire to be spiritual, heart-centered or loving, do the right thing, get others to love and like us, or in order to avoid conflict at all costs, many of us end up taking on problems and responsibilities that life never intended for us to take. For example, our partner’s loneliness, our friend’s deep emotional wounding, our children’s lack of responsibility, or our employee’s lack of commitment.
People who have poorly defined boundaries or no boundaries at all struggle to say no to the requests, demands, control or real needs of others. They feel that if they say no, especially to someone they love and care for, they risk hurting them, losing the relationship or letting the person down. They passively comply to avoid a confrontation, yet inwardly resenting having said yes. And each time you repress emotions such as anger, guilt, shame or fear, sooner or later you’ll end up paying the price.
We all have responsibilities that only we can carry, and no one else can do for us. The opposite is also true. Others have responsibilities that only they can carry and no one else. When it comes to our interpersonal relationships, it’s important that you always remember that there’s a big difference between being responsible to others vs being responsible for ourselves.
You and you alone are responsible for you, for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. You are responsible for the thoughts, feelings, and actions you put out into the world. You are responsible for having your emotional needs met and for asking for what you want, need or desire from others. You and only you are responsible for going after what you truly want in life. It is no one else’s job to do that.
And you are only responsible to others to the degree to which you have consciously agreed to carry their burden or load that it’s either too big for them to bear, or out of the goodness of your own heart you lovingly choose to help them with. All this, keeping in mind that you ultimately can’t do for others what they need to be doing for themselves. You simply cannot think, feel, or speak for others. You just can’t do pushups for someone else!
Just like homeowners set boundary lines to define their property, we too need to have well defined and clearly communicated boundaries that help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.
Knowing the truth about who you are and clearly defining who you want to be in every one of your relationships is the fastest way to put limits on where your responsibility ends and others’ begin.
Here are some questions that will help you start doing that:
- Who are you secretly resenting because you’re giving them of a lot of your time, energy and attention but you feel that you’re not receiving much in return?
- Who are you currently trying to fix, rescue or save hoping someday they will love you back and give you what you want from them?
- Who do you keep saying yes to or complying with, in order to keep the peace, avoid feeling guilty, hurting them or simply avoid a confrontation?
Answering these questions will help you identify those relationships where instead of being responsible to someone (or them to you), you’re taking responsibility for them. Where you are doing for them what is only for them to do.
Giving others back what is theirs will inevitably put them in the position to start feeling the pain, hurt and the emotional discomfort of carrying their own weight. Doing this will not only help them grow but it will also free you to return to the beautiful and amazing you that has been patiently waiting on your side of the fence.
Feel free to leave your comments below.
From my heart to yours,
Photo by Tim Green