What are you responsible for?
Here stands one of the most difficult questions I have had to try and answer. I have often found it genuinely debilitating; like Chidi Anagonye from the Good Place, the question of how far my actions reach has caused me to stay perfectly still for fear of creating a ripple that turns against me. I, like most, never want to do anything bad. I have never wanted to hurt anybody. But I also have no doubt at all that I have done both of those things.
Because it’s impossible not to. That we must accept.
What we must also consider is that to deprive ourselves and the world of our contribution is a harm in itself. We may feel some form of comfort cased in a protective shell made of anxiety and inaction, waiting for the moment to pass, but our only achievement is holding ourselves back.
To wonder what it is that we are responsible for in this world is to show a level of conscientiousness and understanding that those who confidently blunder through life lack. We stop to consider the many impacts of our decisions before acting and berate ourselves if we failed to see how a situation turned out. We feel tripped up. We feel disappointed in our lack of foresight. We should do better than this, we think.
There are three further things to consider:
- We are human. It is not inherently bad to hold ourselves to a high standard but we must not hold ourselves higher than the interweaving narratives we cannot predict. And that is fine. We can only do what we can.
- This form of thinking is sometimes born out of a deep oversensitivity to guilt. In our efforts to ensure we have nothing to feel guilty about, we keep our guilt-receptors on high and are therefore able to find it everywhere.
- We, the Chidi Anagonyes of this world, must practise acceptance. To live a life is a constant interplay between what we can control and what we can’t; what we consume and what we create; what we give and what we take. Our efforts may not bear fruit how we desired, but we must make an active effort to accept what is. Why? Because there is no other constructive way.
What are you responsible for? Ultimately, your own choices. We can only see their impact with hindsight and this perspective requires compassion. Sometimes our choices blossom and sometimes they are poisoned before they can fully take flight. What’s important is that we had the courage to make them.