All too often when people talk about personal responsibility, they only emphasis the part about not making excuses.
But that’s only one half of the equation.
The concept of personal responsibility implies the existence of a goal or ideal. It simply makes no sense to tell someone to take responsibility for their actions unless we are appealing to some kind of standard that is higher than their current behavior.
To aim after a goal is to also admit that one has not yet achieved that goal. In other words, you can’t make positive changes in your life if you’re in denial about the fact that your life is presently characterized by some pretty ugly truths.
Personal responsibility and self-honesty go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. To deny this is to affirm the absurd proposition that one is capable of taking responsibility for his life while simultaneously lying to himself about what his life is really all about.
So when we tell people to stop making excuses, we should be equally passionate about making it clear to them that this doesn’t mean they should stop talking about their problems. The honest and explicit acknowledgment of a problem is the first step in the process of taking personal responsibility.
When we accuse people of playing the victim simply because they choose to shine a light on the darkness in their lives, we actually discourage them from taking personal responsibility. In fact, we teach them to suppress their problems in order to avoid harassment or social disapproval.
If you want to improve, you can’t treat your problems as the stopping point, but you must acknowledge them as a starting point. Owning where you are is essential for heading where you want to be. A map telling you how to get to your destination is only useful if you know your current location.
Should you talk about your problems all the time? No. Should you discuss your difficulties with just anyone? Absolutely not. Should you endlessly complain about how unfair life has been to you? Not if you want things to get better. Use discernment and discretion when processing your feelings of frustration, but don’t get stuck in the trap of believing that you need to pretend like everything is always okay in order to be productive and successful.
Take personal responsibility for your life by being real with yourself when life doesn’t go your way.