Take Responsibility

Your life belongs in your hands, not someone else’s. Take responsibility for it.

Humanity has given rise to many talented artists, musicians, and architects, but how many of us have mastered the art of creating a happy moment—for ourselves and those around us? —Thich Nhat Hanh

Blaming the world for one’s problems is simply a distraction from blaming oneself for those problems. If we can admit that interpreting external events is indeed an internal process, we can also admit this. People find scapegoats of all types— other people, random events, ideologies— for a sense of inadequacy or injustice in their inner-lives. Excuses are vast, but the genuine reason for much of our discontent lies within.

Participating in the world like this is easy in the same way knocking down a sandcastle is easy. In this respect, we can view the cultivation of inner-life as a building-up process, a creative process, since inner-life is what provides us with healthy responses to external situations. Focusing too much outward energy on these situations, however, has a destructive effect.

The most common folly is blaming those close to us for our problems. Since they’re the actors most commonly featured in this external reality, we perceive them as having an integral role in how we think and feel. In some situations, they do have this power. But you’d be surprised what you can get away with in terms of “secret thought” around others. The people closest to you may at times have no idea what’s going on in your head. This is proof enough that your life, thoughts and feelings are indeed in your own hands. And when others do leave a mark on you, it’s usually after you’ve opened up to them in some way. That was your choice, too. This is why, as Adyashanti says, we have to take responsibility.

On a broader scale, those unwilling to take responsibility often blame abstract external factors. The man is keeping them down. They have psychological limitations. They’re oppressed. They’re traumatized. We see this mindset every day, with everyone from rich city-dwelling cubicle drones to poor rural machine workers. When inner-life is neglected, the easiest next step is to blame someone else, someone far away. Everyone does this to some degree. Whenever I go on Twitter I see angry poor whites blaming angry poor blacks and vice-versa. I see self-righteous pompous neo-liberals blaming self-righteous pompous neo-conservatives, and vice-versa. The fun never stops! We create cyclones of perpetual reciprocated blame, which gain strength over time like complex storm systems. Overcoming this cyclical nasty tendency towards blame and revenge is just one step on the path towards responsibility.

For someone who’s never meditated or reflected in an honest way (and this includes unnecessary suffering and feeling sorry for oneself), recognizing the mess that’s been built isn’t easy. Most lives are cluttered, filled with cause-and-effect activities for which neither the cause nor effect is desired. And yet people act anyway, they trod along. What’s comfortable is easier than what’s right or what’s strong. It’s easy to pretend there’s not a mess when you refuse to look at it.

When people discuss the “benefits” of meditation, this is what they’re getting at. The benefits come from easing off the gas a bit. You see immense benefit when you step back and take inventory of your life. Your life. It’s yours, remember? Try making an asset/liability chart for your own life, like a business. When unchecked, we start hemorrhaging time and committing to meaningless liabilities. When we reflect and zoom out a bit, we begin to simplify and trim the fat. This can only happen once self-honesty becomes a priority. For many people, reflecting in this way can be very painful. It’s difficult to admit how we’ve misstepped and acquired needless suffering and bulk over the years. But it’s the only way to reach a place of higher understanding from which we can reorganize our lives.

Over time, the blame turns into critical thought. The revenge turns into constructive self-care. All our mismanaged delusional energy is converted into something more constructive when we meditate and cultivate this self-honesty. When we stop blaming others for our problems, we stop stagnating. We develop new skills and become stronger. We approach the world with new eyes and ears, understanding our own power in what we think and feel. Taking responsibility isn’t a burden; it’s an empowering act of faith in oneself.

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