By Sharukh Vazifdar October 2010 Responsibility is one of the most powerful indicators of our emotional and spiritual maturity. Indeed, our spiritual progress can be measured by the degree of responsibility we assume for our lives, and that of others Rahul, pick up your toys before going down to play! Be responsible for your things,” yells Pallavi, his mother, as my eight-year-old neighbour scurries to take his bicycle down to the compound to ride with the other children. Rahul obediently put his toys back into the closet with a long face, before scampering downstairs.I smile. As adults, we too often look at responsibility with a sour face, and wait to run off to the more enjoyable task at hand.Which of us has not neglected the urgent report and watched a movie instead, or ignored the diet and wolfed down a tempting morsel? There are other even more serious trangressions that are a routine part of the adult world – running up a credit card debt you cannot pay; bundling up old parents to an old folks home to avoid the onerous task of caring for them; blowing up money on a drinking spree that should have rightly been spent on the family… Indeed, it can often appear that responsibility is synonymous with being human. No matter who we are – man, woman, rich, poor, Caucasian or Indian, life equips each of us with a list of responsibilities, which seems to be the entry price to life. Recall the poet who wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was beauty; I woke and found that life was duty.”A good question to ask here would be, what is responsibility? Is it limited to doing your job well, or taking care of your family, or being a responsible citizen? Or is there something more to it?American journalist and satirist, Ambrose Bierce, jocularly defines responsibility in his Devil’s Dictionary, thus “…a detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, fate, fortune, luck or one’s neighbour. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.” Jokes apart, responsibility is the capacity to care, to lead, to shoulder the burden, to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. It is one of the most powerful indicators of emotional and spiritual maturity. Indeed, our spiritual progress can be measured by the degree of responsibility we assume for our lives, and that of others.MaturityAs we move through life, we learn more, experience more, desire more and also become responsible for more. As a child the fulcrum of our responsibility rotates around picking up our toys, learning to behave well, and listening to our parents. However, even this is hard to do as indeed all responsibility is. For the first tenet of the quality is that one must learn to schooI oneself, to subdue unruly impulses, and to overcome the pull of resistance. We become responsible to the extent that we are able to cultivate self-control and will power and take charge of our lives. The next major responsibility for a child is studying by himself. Another onerous task which requires him to apply himself to what may be a difficult and, given our educational system, unappealing task. Leaving school brings with it a set of new responsibilities. Studying the appropriate course, finding the right job, finding the right spouse are all major decisions with lifelong consequences. Further responsibilities of earning a livelihood, buying a house, the decision to have children are next in line. It seems that responsibilities are never-ending, complete one and another one comes along. Why responsibility?So why should we be responsible? Why not leave it all and follow the rishis into sanyas? It is only through a journey into responsibility that we find our passage to life. Only through accepting the challenges and duties of life do we grow in capability, in skills, in strength and endurance, in love and in understanding. The more we pour ourselves into our lives and its manifold duties, the more we get out of it. A street child cares for her younger brother Recall the beautiful passage from the book, The Little Prince, when he understands that the reason his rose is so much more special than any other rose in the world is because he has looked after her. “You’re lovely, but you’re empty,” he tells a rose he meets on his journey. “One couldn’t die for you. Of course an ordinary passer-by would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than you altogether, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except for two or three for butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”Our capacity for responsibility is in direct proportion to our dynamism, capabilities and levels of caring. The more we care, the more responsible we become for the things we care about. Exercising your responsibility muscle enables you to take on more tasks, move faster and go further. Success is heavily dependent on responsibility. An irresponsible person will never climb high up the ladder, as he keeps dropping what he holds. Raj Pandey, a courier delivery boy in Pune, had a tough time for the first few years at his job. Being only 17 when he started, he knew little about taking care of packages and delivering them on time. He was constantly reprimanded for coming late to work, losing packages, damaging packages while travelling and failing to complete his daily route on time. Eventually, his manager handed him his payment and asked him not to come the next day.Pleading for one last chance, Raj sought help, instinctively making a mentor out of the delivery person who was chosen as best employee of the month. He enforced discipline into his life and constantly followed the belief that his work enabled larger organisations to work smoothly and hence was a key element in many organisations. Showing responsibility, he gained the trust of his manager and today, eight years later, is in the manager’s position. Being responsible can turn your life around and open up doors if you’re willing to go the distance.Neelesh (name changed), a young Mumbai-based healer has been responsible for his widowed mother’s welfare since 16, after she developed a degenerative condition that deprived her of her job. With remarkable strength, he not only found a job to keep them going, but undertook a lifetime’s journey to find a cure for her. Today, his mother is whole and well and Neelesh himself is a healer of remarkable compassion and insight. His hard tutorial in responsibility has made him a powerful and positive human being who can cope with any situation in life.We can choose to look at our responsibilities as something that ties us down, a chain and shackle that weighs us down. Or, we can sit in the driver’s seat and accept that we have taken these responsibilities upon ourselves by our own choice. A life without any responsibility would sound ideal, but living it would be bereft of meaning and purpose. Any goal or ambition would imply the responsibility of reaching it. No responsibility would imply not having anything that one has to do. Wandering aimlessly without a goal in life would be completely pointless and contradictory to life itself. Life beckons us to progress, grow, reach out and not sit still and stagnate.Therapist Neena Kumar comes across several patients who break down dealing with the responsibilities of everyday life. “There is heavy stress and demands upon us today. I get at least two patients a week who break down bearing the responsibilities they have taken. There isn’t any easy way out of such a situation. Most of them have lost hope and need to regain balance in their lives. Therapy with them needs to be slow and persistent. If you move too fast they might suffer another breakdown, which can put them in grave physical danger. Slowly through conversation, exercises, and group therapy, they regain that balance and understand the need for responsibility,” says Neena.She adds, “A recent patient could not deal with the repayments of the loan he had taken. He cried every week for almost two months. He then learnt to handle the payments, understanding that his house was his largest asset and biggest investment. He needed a lot of group support, morale boosting and people to talk to, after which he went back to his job and life a happy person.”Collective responsibilityThere were four employees in a company, Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. A task was assigned to them to complete. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it, Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. We often see that work assigned to a group as a whole and no one in particular, is neglected, each thinking the other will do it. Responsibility is like a feather. If not attached to the bird it belongs to, it will float aimlessly, serving no purpose, depriving the bird of a better, more fruitful flight. A task needs an owner to do it. It cannot be idly kept by on a tabletop till it is dusty and is swept off. Pradeep Kataria, the HR head in a major multinational organisation in Mumbai, says that he faces similar issues at work. “I often face issues and complaints about no one stepping up to claim responsibility for a particular task. When handed out to a group, the responsibility gets shared, and a shared responsibility is no one’s responsibility. The only way to sort out this situation is to assign the task to a person. Hold him responsible for its completion, even specify a due date. This helps cultivate an environment which is healthy, and no one blames another. Eve
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