Personal Responsibility When Your Tank’s on Empty

You’re a responsible person. You take responsibility for your actions. You own your choices. So what do you do when there more responsibility than energy?

A Responsible Conversation
I was texting a close friend of mine the other day. We had been talking about some things that were bothering her and that was out of character for her; she’s typically positive and encouraging. After she shared a few struggles she had in her relationships, she ended the thought with a simple declaration: she needed to own her responsibility.

It’s a great approach. We need to take responsibility for our own actions. We need to understand that we can’t expect other people to help us. We need to do everything we can to be who we want to be.

A Deep, Dark Pit
Yet, still this bothered me. I know this person. She’s one of my closest friends. I know how hard she works and how much she does. I know sometimes she gives and gives and gets nothing in return. I’ve been there.

I have had some deep, dark pits in my life. I’ve been all alone with no friends or family anywhere near me, unsure how I would pay my next month’s rent, struggling with proving to my kids, despite misinformation to the contrary, that I loved them and would do anything for them.

I’ve been in those deep, dark places where I had to man up and be a father when I didn’t even feel like a person, all while having no one to rely on and support me. Sometimes the pain of my situation was so overwhelming and the lack of hope or motivation felt like every action was mired in mud; I’d often spend the first hour of the day debating the point of getting out of bed. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that even if today might be hell, if I stay, I can only expect hell; if I press on, there is hope that one day I will see daylight.

A Twisted Take
So I took a moment to encourage my friend. I knew what personal responsibility meant. Like every good thing, it can be twisted for nefarious means. It can be that tool that others use to avoid having to help someone else, ironically shirking their own personal responsibility to help their fellow man by foisting the “personal responsibility” clause on the person they refuse to help. In wielding the tool this way, it can make the person desperately in need of help feel guilty for not being enough.

So I encouraged her. I told her that I agreed that personal responsibility is important. After all, it makes us into better, stronger people. Then I continued. I told her that there are times we are sitting in quicksand, balancing huge weighty responsibilities on our heads, holding a kid in each hand and being asked to help the people safely on solid ground as they lay down in their hammocks and take a snooze.

I continued by highlighting how it’s not always so extreme, but there are times it seems that “personal responsibility” does more to absolve others than really help us know how to act. Sometimes we simply lack the energy and strength to juggle it all.  We must own our problems, but forgive ourselves for our less than perfect juggling skills.

Accepting an Empty Tank
We need to take responsibility for our actions. We need to accept that we are the owners of our decisions. When we find ourselves alone and out of energy, we still must press on to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

But in doing that, we need to forgive ourselves. We need to be okay with our juggling skills. We need to be okay with asking for help, and expecting some, even if we later have to forgive those who failed to show up. We are not on a deserted island. We need to bless, and allow ourselves to be blessed by serving others.

And it’s okay if our tank is empty. We just need to find ways to fill it. Hopefully our loved ones will step up, and if they don’t, it’s okay; we’ll just need to fill the tank with a little forgiveness.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps. He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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