Why does Freedom and Responsibility go Hand in Hand?

With great freedom comes great responsibility. We have heard many versions of this from many people. The question is, why is this true?

Understand what responsibility means. Responsibility means taking charge of the state of one’s mind and emotions. Whenever we blame people, situations or even ourselves, we are transferring responsibility of our actions (or a lack of them) to a third party. When we blame others, we are essentially saying ‘there is nothing that I can do to make the situation better’. Blaming ourselves is ego in reverse. While it may appear that people blaming themselves are noble, in fact it is a subtle escape mechanism. People who blame themselves split themselves into two – the one who blames and the one who is blamed. This splitting of oneself into two entities is a means of ego grandiosity – a part of oneself is taking a higher position to put down another part. Then there is a third set of people, who do not blame others nor do they blame themself. They laugh things off and they escape the situation. Understand that all these three types of people have one essential ingredient – they want to escape from taking responsibility for the situation they are in.

A wise person on the other hand neither blames others, nor blames oneself and at the same time does not use self-deprecating humour to deflect blame. They look at the facts squarely and say, “Yes, I screwed up and I want to understand how I can do better next time”. This attitude is rare in most people and especially egocentric leaders. How do we begin to develop this attribute of taking responsibility for the results?

We can begin this exercise by looking at why we blame. We blame because we cannot accept that we have made a mistake. We cannot accept that we screwed up because we have a self-image to protect, or we are perfectionists. We cannot come to terms with the fact that we are human and that we can err. Usually, the roots of this can be traced to our childhood and our education system, which penalizes mistakes. We are marked with an unceremonious zero when we get a problem wrong on our homework. The same in true in families. Any mistake is censured by our parents. Parents usually use children as an extension of their own egos. They project all their hopes on their children with the expectation that they can make up for their failures. This sets up a situation where children cannot fail.

When we build a society of people afraid of failures – we cut off the natural curiosity to learn, through mistakes. The greatest teachers in life are our failures. And in order to make this into valuable learning opportunities we must have the internal courage to look at our follies with honesty and grace. For this, we must base our life on – not how much I know, or who I am, or where I have reached – rather on how much am I learning. This single decision, can transform one’s life. Failures are no longer failures but valuable opportunities for self growth. Disappointments are teachers that tell us who we are and where we need to improve. This loving approach to oneself is self compassion and self love. This is a kinder way to lead life.

Therefore the first step is to begin to look at ourselves in great honesty. Observe one’s failures and observe the urge to cover it up by blaming or running away. When we totally accept these uncomfortable emotions of so called failure within us, we begin to accept the failure too. Remember in order to accept failure, we must accept the emotion the failure creates in our hearts. This is the only way we can begin to put space between our failures and ourselves. Our actions fail, we do not fail. This is the only way we can begin to de-personalize failure. Otherwise, we risk being caught in an eternal cycle of escapism and blame.

How is this linked to freedom? When we begin to take responsibility for these awkward feelings, we begin to become free of their grip on our mind. We become free of the restlessness caused by not addressing emotions. We become free of the urge to escape from a difficult situation. We stand firm, hold on to our duties and responsibilities – not out of the compulsion to do so, but willingly. We escape the trap of the ego that needs to preserve our image in ourselves, our friends, our neighbors and family. Our minds are cleared of the unwanted mess of thoughts of saying “I am not good enough” or “These people are useless”. Have we all not had the experience of how a single thought has haunted us again and again for days, sapping us of all vitality and joy in life?

True freedom is not the ability to do whatever one wants in life. True freedom is when we have some say over our thoughts and emotions – not by fighting with them – but by graciously accept them and working with them. It is a tool that helps us navigate the darkest recesses of our own minds. And such a freedom is invaluable.

Therefore begin by raising your awareness to your behavioral patterns – do you blame situations often – do you like to escape difficult situations through humour or by running away – do you engage in self pity and self blame? Observe yourself and understand this is okay. There is no need to judge oneself here. Accept that this is the human condition. We are products of our upbringing and the society around us. Understanding leads to acceptance. Acceptance leads to space between us and the emotion. This leads to non-reactivity and deliberation before we act. And this is true wisdom.

Shimla. 2012.

1 Comment

  1. Good one. Hope we follow.

    On Thu, 8 Apr, 2021, 11:32 PM Journey of a thousand words, wrote:

    > Akhilesh Magal posted: ” With great freedom comes great responsibility. We > have heard many versions of this from many people. The question is, why is > this true?Understand what responsibility means. Responsibility means taking > charge of the state of one’s mind and emotions. Whene” >

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