Understanding of the virtue of responsibility
I heard a story about a man we will call Tom, who had a long history of domestic violence. He ended up being convicted by a judge and jury of the murder of his wife. During the trial he maintained that it was her fault, because she had provoked him. Even after 11 years in jail he still maintained that it was her fault not his, because she had made him angry.
Many of us might be shocked at this attitude, in which remorse and personal responsibility seem to be somewhat lacking.
I heard about another man, Max, who spent 12 years in a church. He eventually left for a number of reasons, one of which was that he felt exhausted and used by the church, which had encouraged selfless service as a lifestyle. Very often Max sacrificed his own basic needs in a way that could have been described as martyrdom. He got so carried away with the church that he did not attend to the wellbeing and financial security of himself and his family. After doing this for many years his family situation was not good. Finally the bubble of self-delusion burst, and he was angry. After leaving the church he told everyone who wanted to hear and many who did not, that the church used people and that the whole teaching about doing service was a big con.
Max was unwilling to look at his victim consciousness, and to acknowledge that it was always his decision to become involved in various projects. He went onto another group, where much the same thing happened. In the end he foreswore any kind of group involvement and became quite solitary and bitter.
The principle of giving service to others is as old as spirituality. One cannot separate the two. However like everything else one must keep it in balance. At the end of the day it is important to serve, but we can only do as much service as we can afford to. What that will look like is unique to each person.
In the case of Tom, he could not accept his own wrongdoing and projected it onto another, thereby avoiding personal responsibility. In the case of Max, he was doing something good, but did not have a proper sense of responsibility for the rest of his life and lacked good boundaries through which he could practice moderation and non-excessiveness. Thus, he burned out.
Denial of personal responsibility and the blame that accompanies it is quite common. People live in bubbles of delusion that resist being pierced.
Maybe in the long history of our souls, there have been times when we have blamed others for things that in hindsight we know that we co-created.
We cannot change others but we can learn to accept our own errors of judgment and mistakes. We can stop giving our power away. We can moderate our behaviours, and take responsibility for our choices. Hard as it is, this is going to give us a better chance of living in peace than blaming others no matter what provocation we have experienced.
Blessings on your journey and may we all be blessed with proper understanding of the virtue of responsibility.
Shakti Durga’s book Empowering Relationships has some powerful and practical tips on how to move out of victim consciousness. If you struggle with this you might also like to attend our Empowering Relationships, Conflict to Connection Seminar.