Thomas Eckert

< writing /

05 SEPT 2017

The Power of Accepting Responsibility

The Fall Semester began for me this morning, with it came a new schedule. Rather than spending my full days on campus, I'm working at the Lab south of campus and taking a shuttle into campus for classes. I started my day at the Lab and worked until it was time to catch the bus at 10:37 am. As I ran to the stop, I was just short enough on time that the bus driver didn't see me and drove past.

My initial response was very base and natural. I was frustrated and put the blame on the driver. She didn't see me! Wasn't she paying attention?! I was just a few meters from the stop!

I went to my car, not upset, but gruff as I drove past the offending shuttle on my way to campus. I paid $5 for parking and walked in from the parking lot. As I did, I thought about my initial response to missing the bus. That response was an avoidance of responsibility. It's normal as human beings to avoid pain of all kinds, including the modicum that comes with saying, "It was my fault I missed the bus." The pain is suffered by the ego. Admitting fault means opening ourselves up to criticism and makes us feel stupid.

In cases like this, however, it is wise to take a step back and analyze where we might have been at fault. It was my fault that I missed the bus. The consequences of missing the bus were rightly mine to bear. Admitting this does cause a sliver of pain so it takes my better nature to embrace the truth. However, the power afforded by the admittance outweighs the pain.

This power manifests itself in control and closure. When I take responsibility in cases where I am at fault, I have the power to change how I handle similar situations in the future. Were I to grumble that I missed the bus because the driver was unfair or bad at her job, then what could I do on Thursday when I have to ride the same bus? I couldn't take steps to fix the situation because I wouldn't have control over it. By understanding that I should have left earlier to be at my stop, I can just do that on Thursday and solve the problem. This also keeps me from dwelling on the issue and forming a grudge. If it's my fault, all I need to say is "Okay, that's fine," forgive myself, and move on.

Being analytical about when to accept blame is not a new idea, but so often we are faced with these situations where our natural response is to shy away from the pain of admitting failure that I think it is important to remind ourselves often to have the healthier mindset until we have a consistent habit of being wise and gracious with those around us.