Have you ever stopped to consider what it really means to take responsibility for your actions?
We’ve all probably had a parent, teacher, or coach say this to us, but do we really understand the magnitude of what it means?
The word responsibility means to be accountable for something within your power. Through that lens, everything valuable in life comes with it a certain amount of responsibility.
For example, you’ve been given a body. With that comes the responsibility to take care of that body. No one else will do that for you. As a child, you’re given everything you need, but you still have the responsibility of using those things – food, clothes, education, etc. – for your good.
So you see, responsibility is one of the most fundamental and essential aspects of life.
But why? And why do we openly accept that fact when it comes to simple things like taking care of your body, yet it’s so hard to grasp when it comes to the “harder” parts of life like loving and leading people around us?
Why taking responsibility for your actions is so important
Taking responsibility is important because whatever you aren’t responsible for, you won’t steward well. And what you steward well, you succeed with.
Why is it that if you stay in a friend’s house for an extended period of time, you’ll keep it cleaner than you keep your own house? It’s because you felt responsible. You felt responsible to keep your friend’s house up to a certain standard, and that standard is self imposed at your own house. Therefore, your level of responsibility is higher at a friend’s house which makes your level of stewardship higher.
The same is true of our relationship with God and our relationships with other people. If you want them to improve, then you have to steward them well, and you’ll only steward them well when you take responsibility for them.
It can be easy to think that we live in a vacuum and that taking care of what’s yours is all you need to do. But, if you want relationships and opportunities to bloom, then you’re going to have to take responsibility for those as well.
What does it really look like to take responsibility for your actions?
God gives you and I the responsibility of prioritizing and cultivating our relationship with him. In Ezekiel 37, God leads the prophet Ezekiel into a dry valley filled with bones. Then God asks him if the bones can live, to which Ezekiel replies, “I don’t know.“
Then God doesn’t answer the previous question; instead he tells Ezekiel to prophesy and speak the word of the Lord to the dry bones. After he does this, Ezekiel‘s words to the bones cause them to come to life and come together to form an army.
What I find interesting about the story, and what I find interesting about every story in the Bible, is how much responsibility God gives his people. Could he have done everything Ezekiel did without the help of Ezekiel? Absolutely. But for some reason God chooses to work through human beings, and he gives us the responsibility of carrying out his work.
The truth is, Ezekiel didn’t have to go into this dry valley, and he didn’t have to prophesy to a bunch of dry bones. But taking responsibility in the moment for the word of God given to him caused incredible things to happen.
How taking responsibility for your actions changes everything
The same is true of our relationships with other people. Too often, we only engage in relationships that make us comfortable. We work at jobs that are just easy enough, around people who aren’t too annoying, doing things we like just enough to keep doing them.
Those are the things we choose to take responsibility for because they’re relatively easy to carry.
But what’s much more difficult is to take responsibility for a broken situation – to try to improve the job you’re at rather than complaining about it, and to engage the difficult problems the people around you are dealing with rather than brushing them off as their responsibility.
Are those problems their responsibility? Well, of course. But the thread God is weaving throughout the Bible is one of authority, action, and responsibility in the hands of mankind.
The idea God is conveying is that you and I would be driven by the Spirit of God as we take responsibility for the things we want to see grow. In that way, God’s will is being done on the earth through us.
If it’s meant to be…
We’ve all heard the phrase, “if it’s meant to be, it will be.“ But I’m not sure how biblically accurate that is.
God is certainly moving at his own speed and in his own direction, but everything we know about God tells us that he prefers to work through the actions of human beings.
It seems counterproductive through the eyes of humanity, but God is doing something by having us take responsibility for some part of redeeming the world by bringing it back to him.
By taking responsibility for the brokenness around us, we all of a sudden become engaged and interested, which leads us to being more compassionate and loving.
And all of a sudden, the kingdom of God is advanced in our own hearts just as much if not more than in the world we are attempting to impact. Maybe that was God‘s plan the whole time.
Maybe showing us the authority he’s given us and the freedom and responsibility he’s allowed us to have to affect change on our relationships and atmospheres we’re in is intended to grow faith and hope and love inside of us.
Here’s the bottom line:
The world around you often changes at the speed of you.
It doesn’t mean that everything‘s up to you, it just means you get to decide where you see progress. Your relationship with God will not grow in ten minute intervals here and there. Doing so is embracing the mindset that the responsibility for that relationship is in God’s hands and not yours, when in reality, he’s put the ball in your court and he’s given you the freedom and responsibility to engage and build that relationship with him as much as you want.
Yet we find ourselves passively waiting for things to improve. The same is true of the environments we’re in at work, at home, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not up to us to change everyone, but we do have an opportunity to take responsibility for advancing the will of God through our actions.
It isn’t some nebulous thing that you should pray for and walk away from. The people who aggravate you, the broken culture at your work, the chaos in your home – these are all things that you have the ability to take responsibility for in order to improve.
Of course, the easy road is to wait. The easy road is to pray then sit on our hands. The easy road is to complain about the problem rather than take responsibility for it, because, well, we feel like it somehow isn’t our job.
But I can tell you that things only begin to improve when someone takes responsibility for a situation they want to see improve then acts in accordance with God‘s character to improve that situation. That’s how things change. And that’s what it means to take responsibility for your actions.
Think about the areas in your life where you would like to see improvement:
- Where have you sidestepped responsibility?
- Have you been passively waiting for your relationship with Jesus to get better?
- Have you been avoiding the unpleasant emotions that come with anxiety or depression?
- Have you been simply getting by in your relationship with your wife or kids?
These are all things you have the wonderful responsibility of engaging, as uncomfortable as it may be.
And here’s the thing: you don’t have to come up with some slick way to fix everything. Ezekiel didn’t come up with some cool plan for the dry bones to come together to form an army. He just engaged them with the word of the Lord. God has shown you his heart through his word and through his actions in your life. Use them to fuel actions that are driven by God’s character.
As you apply the word of God to every situation, those situations have no choice but to come to life.