If only I . . .
I can't . . .
I have to . . .
These are the reactive words of many a lost soul. They are words of damnation and condemnation. When these words are uttered, people fail and loose hope. Responsibility is shunned and fingers are pointed. " It isn't my fault. I have no control. " are the thoughts behind the expressed words.
"Between stimulus and response lies our power to choose." ~Stephen R Covey
Responsibility is an intriguing word. People try to make it out to be complex and even frightening. When in fact it is an act of freedom. Responsibility is exactly what it says it is. It is our Ability to Respond. This is something we have surrendered in the effort to simplify our lives. We have given our ability to respond away to others. Sometimes to people we don't even know because we don't want to make our own decisions, we don't want to be response-able.
This is a sad thought. Free agency (or our ability to make decisions), is an inalienable right given to us by God our Father, and we don't want it to use it? We want to shun it, and hand our lives over blindly to whomever will take it and do as they please with it? Shame on us. What a reproachful use of such a wonderful, God-given gift. I do not want to squander this incredible gift any longer.
I control my ability to respond and take ownership of my thoughts, words and actions. I will make and keep promises, set and achieve goals. I will read my children a story every night, as a goal for myself and a promise to my children. I am responsible for this goal and promise. The only thing capable of making it fail is me, and I will not allow myself to fail.
If I make a mistake, I will admit it, correct it and learn from it. For if I made a mistake and tried to cover it up, it would be more damaging. The following moments would be affected and driven by that mistake. Chasing the poisonous snake that bit me would only succeed in driving the poison more quickly through my system. Instead, the better thing to do would be to take immediate steps to get rid of the poison. It was my response, I am accountable for it and will make the best of it because it cannot be taken back and will not be placed on the shoulders of another. If my mistake hurt another, or creates distrust I will have to work even harder to mend the wounds. Though I must not break promises, for too many apologies will earn even more distrust. An apology does not mend lost trust, only fulfilled promises.
"It is not the mistakes of others, or even our own mistakes that hurt us the most, it is our response to those things." ~Stephen R Covey
I will do as Dr. Covey suggests. I am going to set my first goal at thirty days. I will be a light, not a judge. I will be part of the solution, not the problem. I will be a model, not a critic. I will make small commitments and uphold them. Then make larger commitments and keep them as well. Then even larger ones. I wont argue for other people's weaknesses, I wont argue for my own. When I make a mistake I will admit it and correct it immediately. I will not get into blaming and accusing. I will work on what I have control over, and that is me.
Inside of this thirty day goal I will have three other smaller goals. The first is to listen to my language and to the language of those around me and see if we are using reactive language such as: "If only . . ." or "I have to . . ." If I do then I will correct it and replace it will proactive language such as "I can . . ." and "I will . . ." The second goal is to identify an experience I will most likely have in the near future, based on a past experience, were I would behave reactively. Review the situation and figure how I could respond proactively. Envision it and take control of it, remembering that the gap between stimulus and response is the power of choice. And third, I will select a problem in my personal life and determine if it is a problem that I have direct control of, indirect control of or no control of. I will identify the first step I can take to solve the problem, then I will do it. As the serenity prayer goes,
I will remember to look upon others with compassion, not judgement. It is not what they are doing, or what they are supposed to be doing, but how I react to it, and what I am supposed to be doing that are important. If I am cleaning my room and keeping my end of the chores done, my children will be more inclined to do their chores without whining and arguing. But I must do my part first. I must lead by example, not by intimidation and force.
How I respond makes all the difference in the world. If I can just keep that in mind, this principle of being proactive alone will have a dramatic effect on my life and my family.
May patience and grace bless us all.