Responsibility: Mine or Yours?

Last week I started a discussion on how to decide whether you should “hold a rope” for someone else. What I’m talking about is boundary setting so you don’t take responsibility for more than you should or enable someone else’s irresponsible behavior.

Track back to read the other posts. I’m offering a number of questions to help people set boundaries. Here are three more:

Is this person trying to pass on their responsibility to me?

Imagine a world where everyone carried their own weight. Maybe that’s heaven! Some people make it their lifelong career to give away their responsibility.  They pushed it off on their mom and brother, then their classmates, their girlfriend/boyfriend, and co-workers.  Through the years they develop the slick ability to never own anything while those around them constantly catch what they let drop. It’s a good deal for them!responsibility

I don’t know about you, but I have enough responsibility. I can’t afford to take on what’s not mine. So I never automatically assume the responsibility when someone hands me a rope. You shouldn’t either. When someone gives you their rope don’t be afraid to ask questions about whether this is their responsibility.  If it’s theirs say, “No thanks. I think that’s your responsibility.” You might say, “But what if they let everything drop and it breaks?”  It’s amazing what consequences teach people. The reason people don’t take responsibility is that someone has always been there to block the natural consequences to their irresponsibility.

Am I the only person who can help?

When someone presents me with a valid need I don’t assume that I’m the best person to solve the problem.  It really helps that I have a strong faith in GOD and not in MY ability to rescue people. There are millions of people on this planet.  God doesn’t need ME. In some cases, I might be uniquely suited to solve a problem. But odds are, I’m NOT the only person who can help. There has to be more pressing reasons for me to pick up a rope than just being handed a rope.  I might offer to hold a rope temporarily while I determine if I’m the right person or until I can find someone else.

Am I willing to extend myself, or drop other ropes to pick up a new one?

Some people feel like they are a bad person or bad Christian if they don’t help. But you have to factor in the full impact of picking up a rope.  I may help you, but by helping you I might have to stop helping someone else. Is that fair?  Maybe.  Most people don’t STOP helping one person when they START helping another. They typically just pick up another rope, which means they fail to help anyone well and burn themselves out in the process.

My wife is very good at challenging me about my schedule. I’ll casually say, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to start teaching a class every Tuesday.” Her classic response is, “That’s great honey. What are you going to drop from your schedule to make this possible?”  It’s taken me a few years (read decades) to learn, but with a full schedule I HAVE to stop something in order to start something else. No excuses.

Because I accept very few ropes, I’m available to fulfill MY daily responsibilities as well as having enough margin to respond to the crises that arise throughout the week where I’m truly needed. People appreciate that availability.

Set Boundaries with God’s Help

Boundaries take wisdom and courage, two things God is happy to give you if you ask. I don’t always mention this because I don’t want to overplay the “God card”, but I use these questions in my prayers to God to help clarify what I should do.

I still have a few more things to say about boundaries in coming posts. Come on back and leave a comment if you can relate to what I’ve said.

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5 thoughts on “Responsibility: Mine or Yours?

  1. Elli Hunt

    Thanks Remy, this is very helpful, like a guide that gives the bigger picture that is essential in making good decisions and yet offers the details so that it is useable for each of us.

  2. Diedre

    Good stuff. Makes me think: I love jumping with my own rope because it fits me just right. I miss my rope when I drop it to pick up somebody else’s rope. Just because I jump rope really well doesn’t mean I can do it with anybody’s rope. And it’s much more fun when we all are jumping our own ropes together! It creates a great harmony in the rhythm of life.

  3. Anonymous

    Great picture of boundaries. Just when I think I have arrived with boundaries the situation changes and challenges me again.

  4. judithdoran

    What a terrific reminder. I attended a clergy day yesterday in my diocese, and it’s so sad to me to see colleagues who just don’t get this. Some of them look like walking zombies because of the schedules they feel they must keep. I wonder if Jesus weeps when we accept too many ropes in the name of His church?

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