On Taking Responsibility

Yesterday, I received an email from a young student who told me “I’m in a huge crisis. Nothing’s going right. It’s just that I have lost my confidence due to an incident which occured in my college. Please help me.”

It always surprises me when people sent me mails of that kind. Obviously, I cannot enter into the necessary dialogue for resolving personal situations like this. But equally, I hate to ignore any kind of plea for help. So I replied, providing a link to our Building Self Confidence book and thought no more about it. Today, I received the following mail from the same person.

Sir, I read your book and I’m sure it will help me. But the thing that happened to me was very strange during a sessional exam,  I lost my concentration and failed to submit my answer copy on time and it was about 15-20 minutes late. The person who came during the exam scolded me and says that I did it intentionally. I don’t know what to do now as I can’t concentrate on my studies.

Again, I feel ill equipped to help properly and, of course, I really cannot enter into personal communication on this matter. Whilst I remain somewhat puzzled as to the motivation of the person who sent the mail, I still do not like to ignore requests for help. So, without naming the person, I thought I would try to answer here in open session. That way, I feel able to spend a little more time on my answer as it may also be of benefit to others.

So, young person, you may not like my answer, but I will try my best to give you some good fatherly advice. You may take heed (and perhaps it will help you) or you may put it down to the ramblings of some old geezer who is ‘just like all the rest’. That is a choice you will have to make after you finish reading what I have to say to you. But life is like that: you get to make choices and then you have to learn to live with the consequences.

Firstly, I would say that growing-up is all about learning to take responsibility for your own actions. Some people never learn how to do that and so, like Peter Pan, they never really grow up. If you think about the mantra (regarding life) that is so common to young children, they say over and over that life is ‘not fair’. Somewhere along the line, you have to accept that as truth. Life is NOT fair. You cannot change that; it’s a ‘given’.

In your case, you say that you did something by accident and that may genuinely be the case. But exams have rules and if you break the rules, you have to live with the consequences; that’s why rules exist. You have to mature in your response to the situation, examine your available options and then make a new choice. That new choice will also have consequences and, again, you have to accept whatever they might be.

As I said, you may not like my advice, but it is good advice. If you can learn how to come to terms with this situation that appears to be troubling you at the moment, then you will have learned something valuable. You will have learned how to cope with the very many more serious difficulties that await you further along in life’s journey.

One more thing: advice of this nature is not generally what people want to hear in my experience. It is the right kind of advice because it strikes at the heart of your problem. But it is not what people want to hear. What people generally want is some ‘quick fix’ technique, they want the ‘magic words’ and they want to know how to put the situation right.

If you accept that the situation is not wrong, then there is nothing to fix. You only have to learn how to come to terms with it.

One thought on “On Taking Responsibility

  1. Nicola

    I agree with your post, often it isn’t what people want to hear, and in my experience, mainly because it is an internal solution, rather than an external one (like that elusive magic pill). Many cultures have rites of passage to be endured before becoming an adult. I think this is important – before graduating from childhood to all the delights and freedoms of adulthood, one must be aware of their actions and the role they play in their own life. Life isn’t something that happens, we create it. And on responsibility – it is the ability to respond. If you cannot choose your response to how you feel, you are not ready for adult life. (Consider this in the statement ‘I don’t know how I’ll feel later tonight, so will send you a message if I can’t make it’ You do know how you will feel – its up to you to decide it after all.

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