“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Here’s a simple fact of life: We will never find happiness if we play the blame game.
Maybe we blame a dysfunctional childhood, claim we have no choice in the matter, or argue that others forced us to act a certain way. Or we simply proclaim, “There’s nothing I can do; I can’t help it.”
Self-justification distorts reality. The trouble is that if we blame others for our bad choices and the bad repercussions that come with those choices, we’re not acknowledging our mistakes. We’ll never learn from our errors and even worse, we’ll be destined to repeat them. As long as we refuse to accept responsibility for our own actions, we’ll miss out on valuable life lessons. We’ll never make positive changes in our lives. Happiness will always remain elusive.
In the end, we all must take responsibility for our own life choices, thoughts, actions, and decisions.
Of course, taking responsibility for our lives is a challenging lifelong process. But taking this important positive step will enable us to create the life we want, let go of anger, resentment, and bitterness, learn forgiveness, move forward, and earn the respect of others. In the end, taking personal responsibility for our lives is empowering.
How do you know if you have this bad habit and need to make some changes? People that do not take personal responsibility for their actions tend to:
Look for a Culprit
“Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” ―Giordana Toccaceli
When something goes wrong, do you immediately find someone to blame? Stop it! Blaming others is just a sorry excuse for taking actions that bring you pain and unhappiness. True, you cannot control other people’s actions. But nevertheless, you and you alone are responsible for how you think, act, and feel in response to what other people say and do.
Making excuses is similar to blaming others. The only difference is it involves blaming your behavior and actions on circumstances instead of people.
Excuses are a way of defending bad behavior, justifying wrong actions, or negating responsibility.
When people attack, lose self control, lash out, or throw tantrums and say, “I couldn’t help it, my childhood made me this way,” or “These circumstances bring out the worst in me,” they are essentially placing blame of an internal problem on an external situation.
Play the Victim
When you constantly blame others and make excuses, you’ll eventually develop a victim’s mentality. This type of thinking is the direct opposite of taking personal responsibility.
In his excellent article, Are You Playing the Victim to Manipulate Others? Donald Miller writes: “In order to play the victim we need an oppressor. And when we manipulate by playing the victim, we turn people who are otherwise innocent (or perfectly human) into a bad person in our minds. Instead of forgiving somebody who has wronged us and moving on, we demonize them in our minds and play them up as a villain so we can be their wounded victim.”
As he wisely points out, it’s an unhealthy game to be sure and the ironic thing is that by manipulatively demonizing others and portraying them as oppressors, you may in fact, become the oppressor.
We all are guilty of these bad habits occasionally, but refusing to take personal responsibility on a regular basis will only lead to unhappiness and misery.
Sadly, blaming others, making excuses, or playing the victim can seriously backfire. These negative behaviors can stop you from reaching your full potential, prevent personal growth, lead to bad judgment calls, and result in a persistently pessimistic outlook on life.
You’ll also start losing the ability to empathize. Instead of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll be focused on defending your actions as a part of your identity. “That’s who I am.” “I can’t help it.” “You’ll just have to accept it!” If you find yourself uttering those phrases, take an honest look at who you are and the ways that this attitude is detrimental to those you love as well as to yourself.
Denis Waitly put it well when he said: “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”
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