RESPONSIBILITY? What does that mean?


I'm continually learning the meaning of "responsibility".

It's been a quest, in a sense - pledging to explore in a deeper way what it means to be responsible in my own life.

So far, in this quest, I've learned that, for most of the first third of my life, I had misunderstood it.  

Up to this point, I believed responsibility meant to behave in a manner most accepted by society.  It was caught up in what I thought responsibility should "look like".  I was responsible if I did my work well, got good grades, did the dishes, kept the laundry moving, fed people, cared for people, kept the house neat, clean, and orderly, provided emotionally, monetarily, and physically for the needs of my family, volunteered, etc.  

Responsibility was heavy stuff! 

According to Merriam-Webster: 

The Definition of Responsibility is:

1the quality or state of being responsible: such as

a: moral, legal, or mental accountability

b: reliabilitytrustworthiness

2something for which one is responsible: burden 

     As in he has neglected his responsibilities

And, at first glance, I had been doing it right... So, why did this definition bother me? What was missing?

According to the dictionary, I had been fairly responsible in life up to this point.

So then, why did I yearn to "go rogue". 

It happened when I started taking into account some important core truths of myself that had been left by the wayside in striving to "be responsible".  I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable - surely something was missing - something vitally important had been left out in leaving it with Merriam-Webster. 

I had begun to wonder - Did I really understand the word itself or was I living it in a cultural sense that was partially true but spiritually bankrupt? Why did I feel a great chasm opening within when sitting with this question?  

And so began the practice of working to intentionally bring myself into an alignment with the callings from within - the calling of a spiritual responsibility and holistic response. 

And then, this Winter, a beautiful gift appeared to help articulate what it means to take “responsibility" into deeper places and truest meaning.

I'd been sitting with ideas of responsibility for a workshop I'd been contemplating, and trying to place these ideas into some sort of intentional action and offering, when this book appeared on my doorstep - a late Christmas gift from my oldest daughter to her younger sister. 

It had the answers I sought. It defines 'responsibility" as follows:

    In its truest and most literal sense, responsibility is simply the capacity to respond. Being responsible is an inherently lively quality. It is the capacity to react completely and freely to conditions. Being responsible has nothing to do with control and conformity. Quite the contrary, responsibility is the willingness to confront nakedly and clearly what’s in front of you on its own terms and to be called forth fresh by what occurs. The Greek root of the word response means to offer, to pledge. To be responsible is to offer yourself to what happens to you, to pledge yourself to your life.
    — Norman Fisher from "Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up, p.26

    Now, that's a game changer. 

    If we take up this meaning of what it means to be responsible, life will surely evolve into something far greater in purpose and in outcome.

    Pledging to live our lives in this way calls for a commitment to vulnerability, to presence, to fully showing up without a pre-planned agenda. It requires daily practice, lots of self-compassion, forgiveness when we falter,  the resiliency to try again, and a certain sense of adventure  - for we'll never know where "being responsible" under this definition will take us.  

    I'm taking it all in and practicing one day at a time and enjoying the adventure.

    I think I'm "Truly Growing Up".