I don’t really like the word responsibility. I think it may be a four-letter word in disguise. It sounds like a burden. It sounds negative. It sounds like something that happens to you in the waiting room of the doctor’s office during flu season. It’s something to be avoided.
I’ve never heard of a hero described with this word. “Oh, he was such a great man. He exuded grace and courage. His life was marked by…responsibility.” Never happens.
However, responsibility is a prerequisite for greatness. While not a championed virtue, responsibility provides an indispensable rudder in life when “yes” moments occur. It’s beneath the surface, but provides direction. Without a willingness to take responsibility, we won’t engage opportunities. We’ll drift without any real purpose.
I’m not talking about taking responsibility for the bad that happens. Although, we clearly don’t do that as a culture. Players blame the referees. Congress blames the president. President blames the Congress.
I’m talking about taking responsibility for the good that could happen. When we walk by an opportunity to defend or provide for someone, do we take responsibility for that?
As Robert Lewis points out in his great book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood, a real man accepts responsibility. One factor that marks great men is their willingness to take responsibility: Moses accepted responsibility for defending a slave, a shepherdess, and a nation: George Washington accepted responsibility for a loose-knit organization of colonies: Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted responsibility for the freedom of a people who faced discrimination.
Instead of avoiding responsibility, we need to realize that our ability – especially as men – to make a difference is directly tied to our willingness to embrace responsibility. It’s the rudder that gives direction.
Challenge: Where have you avoided responsibility? Your marriage, your kids, a neglected network of mistreated people? When we embrace responsibility, we give direction to our lives and those around us.