Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Do Your Own Dishes" - The Principle of Responsibility

This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. It's been one of my most popular posts ever since. I hope it strikes a chord with you.

This lesson is Part 3 of a 6 part series on making positive change in our lives. It's based, in part, on the book Good to Great in God's Eyes by Chip Ingram. I ran across a poem by Edna Wheeler Wilcox in one of John Maxwell's books. I liked it so much I still remember the gist of it years later. Here is part of it:

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Two kinds of people no more I say.
Not the good or the bad, for it's well understood,
The good are half bad, the bad are half good.
No! the two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, (and)the people who lean.


This writing is about responsibility, specifically, taking responsibility for our own lives. Many of us grew up with mothers who, regardless of the busyness of their own schedules, would be sure that all of the dishes in the house were washed and dried. A wise mother eventually teaches her children how to take responsibility and do their own dishes. Unfortunately, there are a great many people who, though well into adulthood, are still refusing to take responsibility for their own lives.

Some have grown quite proficient at the "blame game." It's not their fault that they forgot to pay the utilities bill; didn't see the stop sign; had teachers that didn't understand them, etc... ad nauseum. There are some who have accepted the role of victim, constantly bemoaning the fact that "life isn't fair" and that they never get a break. To be honest, I have played that card a few times in my life and understand the sentiment. But what I've learned is that it's simply not helpful.

There are a few things that we need to understand about life. First of all, as I said in the first part of this series: life isn't fair. Some people do seem to have more breaks than others. Some are born with wealthy parents who love them; others are born into poverty and abusive environments. Some breeze through school with healthy self-esteem; some struggle painfully at every level. Regardless of our lot in life, the principle of responsibility teaches that we must own up to whatever reality we face.

It is quite remarkable looking at a list of all of the great men and women of history who overcame great odds to make a difference. Sir Isaac Newton's father died before Isaac was born; his mother raised him in poverty. He went on to become one of the fathers of modern science and discovered the law of gravity. Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of 17th children and only had one year's formal education. Yet he taught himself 4 languages, science, finance, politics and much more and became a great statesman and author. There are legions of others. Conversely, the tabloids are full of failures who came from a life of privilege. I believe one of the key differences is the principle we're speaking of today.

If you want to make a difference in this world you have to be honest with yourself. As John Maxwell states, "no matter where you are, there you are." You might wish to start elsewhere, but that is not up to you. The truth is, it doesn't matter whose fault it is, if it's about you, it's your responsibility. What does this look like in real life?

You may have had a troubled childhood, with painful memories that have scarred and affected you deeply. I'm not minimizing anyone's pain, but there are two clear choices I see. You can wallow in that pain, allowing it to limit your progress and define your future, or you can choose to move through it, allowing it to make you stronger. Though it may not be your fault, it is still your responsibility. The effect of ignoring the problem may mean that your children, or others you love, pay the price, and an ugly cycle is repeated. Do your own dishes.

There are some incredible examples in the Bible of people who overcame horrible obstacles to make their mark on history, partly because they chose to view the events of their past through the lens of God's sovereignty. These examples include Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, wrongfully accused, convicted and imprisoned, only to be eventually raised to the right hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. You can see his positive perspective in his statement to his brothers once he reached the throne: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

Believing that God loves you is one of the keys to being able to face up to our responsibilities. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." When you think you're facing more than you can handle, hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

The good news is that God hasn't left us alone. He will walk with us through whatever storms that life may throw at us. He will help us to redeem and even redefine our past. As Peter said, in 2 Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." You can choose to make the world a better place by what you do with what you have. Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Don't lean - lift!

Related Articles:
"Take Out the Trash" - The Principle of Transformation
“Put God First” - The Principle of Priority
Developing Great Habits
Book Review: "It Came From Within!"
The Great Paradox
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