The how, what, and why for of personal responsibility…
“Personal Responsibility”? What a phrase. But surprise of surprises,
I’m about to invite you on a journey of sight and sound,
of Spirit, and of Truth,
I’ll tell you in advance, so that you can prepare.
Pack your bags, bring a bathing suit,
The water’s inviting, and the palm trees, they call.
Mmmmmm….today, dear friend Grady Booch and I were discussing the implications of personal responsibility for computer programmers. He’s recently been interviewed on c|net news regarding the morality of software development. As an individual programmer, are you subject to mindlessly implementing your organization’s dictates? Or is it also part of your job to choose in or out of projects that you deem unethical (meaning, from your value system, they don’t account for the needs of all interests on the table)? The example Grady points to has to do with public video cameras in England. If a programmer is asked to develop software that can do facial recognition from such cameras, potentially eroding personal privacy, should that programmer “do as told” or stand up for the privacy rights of citizens?
But this topic of personal responsibility doesn’t just relate to computer programmers, does it? I think the question is relevant to all of us living in this interconnected world. When participating in decisions and creations that we know don’t attend to all of the parties impacted, when we have that nagging feeling that something just isn’t right around here, do we speak up or shaddap?
In politics, do we keep our heads down, or do we let politicians decide laws and outcomes for us? As journalists and the media, do we ask the hard questions or do we prioritize our hides and cowtow to our sponsor’s demands? In family and in our communities, do we ask others to include the needs we notice aren’t being attended to, or do we fear conflict, seek acceptance, decide not to rock the boat, and silently go along with things we know don’t serve all the interests on the table?
Is there any other way?
Common doesn’t mean Normal
Many folks I know, when faced with the idea of personal responsibility, don’t hear it as an opportunity as a Divine Gift to speak our Deep Knowing in the world. Instead, these folks respond with:
“F$#% that – I want to keep my life simple.”
“omg that’s too hard.”
“It’s not my job! Don’t pin that on me! Life is hard enough as it is!”
It seems common to take the road of silence and go along with group-think. Do what you’re told, right?
It seems common that we’re so overwhelmed with our own concerns and our own agendas and that, “I don’t have time for this” is so common that we don’t have the bandwidth to take on anything more.
If it’s true that this is all very common, does that make it normal? Does common mean it’s all right? Do we say, “Hey, it’s normal to pick your battles and stuff the rest under the carpet”?
I say, let’s not cowtow to cowtowing, just because it’s common. What if there’s a way to regain normalcy in the face of what is common?
What if there’s a way to do BOTH, a way to stand for what we know is right and also cover our butts?
How can we, as faces of Spirit, as agents of Life Increase, how can we bring our Best Selves (mind, body, Spirit, heart, gut and action) to the world, in a way that doesn’t burn or tap out all our resources?
I hope this post will call you, all of us, into The Passion Play of Personal Responsibility.
Personal responsibility? Passion?!!! PLAY?!!!
No, I’m not insane, I swear it.
Ok – so the term “personal responsibility” sounds icky and heavy. So from now on, each time I say “personal responsibility”, what I’d like you to hear is “the opportunity to speak deep Source Knowing” or “the possibility of inviting others into your vision” or “the radiant ability to speak truth to power”. See how delicious that is? Remember the translation, ok? You’re with me right?
If it’s hard for you to imagine the sweet upside to this opportunity, then let me meet you where you are and first talk about:
We have nothing to lose by keeping our heads down, right? Just put up (with it) and shut up and everything’ll be fine, right? Just live out your life and let the kids clean it up next generation, right?
When we ignore the little nagging that speaks to us, when we ignore the voice of Truth attempting to emerge from within, when we opt for ease and fear over courage and inviting others into our vision, what do we lose? What are the costs to abdicating personal responsibility?
Have you heard this poem, entitled “First They Came”? It has many versions. Here’s one:
- First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
- because I wasn’t a Communist.
- Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
- because I wasn’t a Jew.
- Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
- because I was a Protestant.
- Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left
- to speak up for me.
Nature hates a void. When you are not contributing your vision and invitation to the world, someone else will. I believe that for every moment we don’t stand up when something is telling us we may want to stand up, someone will choose a stand for us. What if their vision doesn’t take care of you, or of us, or of your loved ones, or your community, or your people, or the planet we all want to live a long life on? Do I really want to leave my fate in the hands of others? Do I want to be a passive extra on the stage of life, a puppet, while other players play out my life on my behalf?
I think there are huge costs, great mountains to be lost, when I choose not to stand up for my Deepest Knowing and make That Voice known.
But maybe (like me), you’re not motivated by costs, losses, or risks. Maybe you prefer to know what the value is. What’s the point to taking on a life of personal responsibility? Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Five Levels of Value
In TIA – The Integrated Approach, we talk about five levels of systemic awareness:
- I-space – me, my concerns for myself.
- We-space (small) – us, our concerns; my loved ones, my family, my peeps.
- We-space (large) – the grander ‘us’; our organization, our community, our country.
- Trans-we (small) – that which is beyond ‘us’; the system of the planet, the human race at large.
- Trans-we (large) – the transpersonal, that which is beyond the tangible realm; acting in concert with the Divine, congruent with Life Increase, acting in line with God (or all that Is, or Love, or Consciousness).
I propose that there’s huge juice, lots of play, and lots of passion for you to gain at every single one of these five levels when you’re willing to take on the opportunity to bring your Knowing to the surface, when you’re willing to take on personal responsibility as a way of life.
The Juice of I
What’s this juice for me, myself, and I?
At the level of me and my own interests, I understand that when I take responsibility, when I put my voice on the table, when I invite others into my vision, I have power. In TIA we talk about power as “the capacity to mobilize resources to meet needs” (thank you Miki Kashtan). When I speak to my yearning, when I tell others that I’m only interested in participating in a way that also accounts for my other values, I gain the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life for myself and everyone around me. If I don’t stand up for my needs, who will? When we don’t take responsibility, we abdicate our power to others who will.
And isn’t power sexy? Don’t you want that?
In “we-space”, what’s the point of taking personal responsibility?
Have you ever wanted to inspire someone? Have you ever wanted to contribute to the wellbeing of your loved ones, your family, your lover(s)? Have you ever, like a baby offering a spoonful of mush to another person, been moved from utter joy and delight to gift someone else just for the pleasure of seeing their joy, their thriving, their growth and fulfillment?
We all count on each other, interdependently, to feed each other intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and to get all our needs met – it’s what makes the world turn. What’s not to love about that?
The same thing applies to our organizations, groups, communities, and countries.
Gifting, contributing; it’s a win-win game.
Three layers of juice, and we’ve not even talked about how to minimize the squeeze yet.
The Tranny Juice, er, I mean Trans-Juice
At the tangible body-mind level we care about our sustainability, our health, our ability to thrive, to create, and to live in freedom and in pursuit of happiness. We depend on our planet and our eco-system to make that possible.
By standing up for universal needs, by inviting others into a vision of what we yearn for in sustainability and taking care of the system, we create a powerful wave of influence and benefit at a global level. Consider this not only true for the planet, but also for organizations, for the human race at large, for the collective unconscious.
Here’s a proposal for you. What if it’s also true that universal, underlying needs are the face of Spirit attempting to manifest through the bodymind of you, the bodymind of our groups, our families, our systems… What if, by speaking for your Deep Knowing, you are living as a cell in the body of the Divine, supporting evolution, supporting love, growth, and thriving on the planet?
Juicy juicy, I say.
But just in case all of this isn’t enough, maybe it’ll help if we talk about HOW the heck to do it!
How can one take personal responsibility in a way that supports you too?
How do we “take personal responsibility” in a way that works for us too?
Here are my 3 hopes for us all toward living masterfully as Spirit in a Bodymind; masterfully as personalities dancing in concert with the Divine.
- Invite Into your Vision: Speak your knowing not as a force, not as a ‘have to’ but as an invitation. By presenting the underlying need, we touch a universal commonality that others can relate to. By speaking this vision as an invitation, we ask others to come out and play, rather than telling them they’re wrong. Instead of bashing that sandbox over there, let’s invite everyone onto these lovely fun swings over here! See how amazingly fun they are?
- The 1, 2, 3 of Speaking Truth to Power: How can you speak truth and still cover your ass? First,
get in touch with the deepest yearning behind your voice, the underlying universal value, the root vision. Forget talking about what you don’t like, what is it you DO want? Next, let’s say you get your way. Tell me: when you get your way, what will it bring you? Your answer to this question will point the way to the underlying universal need, the heart of the matter that everyone can relate to. Speak about that. Oh, you want a practical example? Ok – let’s take the HMO deal and American health care system. When you want improvement, you don’t only lean on the horrors of people paying for insurance who are denied health care, and you don’t only talk about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who can’t afford health care. Instead, you invite others into the wonderous image of Universal Health Care, free, for all Americans, in the same way the fire department is free, in the same way teachers in public schools are free.
Second, let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry about trying to get it right, stop your inner-chatter when you drift into “doomsday speculations” about “what may happen” after you speak. Perfectionism, prediction and fear-based speculating about horror stories stops many a being from thriving. Simply speak your truth and then, “Let Go, Let God.” You’re not responsible for controlling how others will react. Just put your yearning out there, step back, and watch to see what happens. Ex: “What I’d really like is to see ABC in a way that also XYZ.
Third, be present to the outcome. Yes, maybe someone will get their feathers ruffled and want to challenge your voice. When I’m present to the ruffle, I hear and listen only for the underlying universal need the other person is trying to get included. We can do both/and, right? Rather than trying to fix the other person or refuse them, just being present makes the partnership more effective and simpler. Easy; I like easy. Ex: “Let’s find a way to both take care of what you want and what I want.”
- Questions: Responding with curiosity, rather than information, gives us an opportunity to receive more deeply and to be received more deeply. Ex: “Tell me more about that; if you got that what would it bring you?” “I want to make sure your hopes get included. Could you tell me more about what hopes your idea will achieve?”
Ok. So now we have the “how”. So what?
The Touch of Nobility
Owning the opportunity to speak your truth, let the chips fall where they may, and be present to dance with the outcome isn’t just an act of practical benefit or survival. It’s also the noble thing to do. Let me seduce you with a bit of song…
“My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come
And I can die when I’m done.”
– GNARLS BARKLEY
Can you die knowing you’ve taken action or brought your voice into the world such that you can stand proudly beside the courage of people like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, or Pema Chodron, Oprah, and (insert your favorite persona here)?
What if you could?
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
What would you speak up for?
What vision would you invite others into?
Finally, let’s go one more round about “What’s In It For You”.
Why Bother with Personal Responsibility? WIIFM?
In our world of ROI-thinking (return on investment), let me show you the benefits of allowing your awareness and your voice to play into the fabric of life:
– A sense of Pride that I live True to mySelf and my Deepest Knowing; I don’t abandon me in the shadow of fear – I stand with Courage, I stand up for my Deepest Knowing.
– The Peace of Mind of knowing I have done all I can; I can sleep with myself, I can look myself in the eye in the morning.
– The Delight of knowing that by standing up, I give others permission to also stand up; by being a role model, I Empower Others.
– The Fulfillment of knowing – I Contribute
Whether it’s politics, a local community decision, family, the health care system or computer programming, I invite us all into the Passion Play of Thinking about what nags at us, Asking Questions, and Voicing Underlying Commitments. In doing so, I trust we can transform our visions into the communion of co-creation.
Sending blessings for Life Increase, Emergence, and Evolution of Consciousness,