I was preparing for my new semester of Teaching a Foundations for College Success course by looking over the new textbook, On Course by Skip Downing. One chapter that jumped out to me was on Personal Responsibility. We live in an era where it is rare for people to accept responsibility. This is even seen on the governmental level instead of working on problems the leaders point to excuses away from themselves as to why the country is in the mess it is.
It is easier to make up excuses and point to others as the root of our problems than to do the hard work of solving our problems ourselves. The author says this of personal responsibility, “The essence of personal responsibility is responding wisely to life’s opportunities and challenges, rather than waiting passively for luck or other people to make the choices for us.” Those two key words responding versus waiting have a big impact on how we respond to life.
Skip Downing places people in two categories in relation to responsibility. One is the Victim role. The victim is the waiting passively person. As life events occur and often trouble occur they wait and then blame others for their difficulties. They want a handout or someone such as the government to take care of them. The other role is the Creator role. This person actively responds to find personal solutions. At times they may seek out help from government but on a short term basis, as they ultimately want to be responsible for their own way in life. The passive victim often spirals down to deeper despair and complaints about how they got the short end of the stick or how unlucky they are. The Active responder creator instead spirals up with a positive attitude that the difficulty is only a temporary set back and they will bounce back. This is a key element in resilient people of having a comeback attitude.
In both cases a central element is the choices each person makes. The Creator makes positive choices to actively make their lives better. On the other hand the Victim makes choices to passively wait for someone else to help them which creates more hardship. Elisabeth Kuler-Ross said this of choices, “I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.” I always emphasize to my students that all our life is made up of continual choices and each choice we make creates a consequence . The creator accepts responsibility for their choices while the victim sits crying unfair and blaming others for their situation. At the end of our life we will look back and realize our life was the result of all our choices.
To have the best life possible we need to be actively engaged in making wise responsible choices. We need to choose whether we want to be a victim and spiral down in negatively or be a creator and spiral upwards with a positive attitude. Now granted rain and storms occur in every person’s life. And there are some who have more storms than others. The creators keep bouncing back resiliently from the storms knowing that there is more to life than just storms. The victims often stay stuck in the storm and miss the rainbow by staring at the grey clouds in the distance. The choice is up to each of us.
Reflection: Are you a creator or a victim? How can you make wise choices for your life?