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Responsibility: Yours or Mine?

By Peter Shepherd

A reader's questions and my answers...

Q: You state: "Another's determinism (including their emotional responses) is their responsibility, not yours." I'd like to discuss this point that I find important. If I promise to my son to go to the circus with him, then don't do it, he will be sad. For me, this would have been a wrong action on my part, and I would be responsible for it. I would have caused his grief. If you know that doing something will cause an upset, and you do it anyway, then you are responsible. You could have prevented it, but you caused it. This is the definition of responsibility: recognition of being cause and able to withhold. I'd like to understand your statement above and see if I've got something wrong.

A: In the example you give, it is your son who causes his grief, not you. But yes, it would still be a wrong action since you promised to take him to the circus and didn't. You are responsible for doing what you think is right, according to your ethical judgment. If you do something wrong according to your own ethics, you are responsible for that. You are not responsible for another person's reactions though - that is their determinism, their freedom.

If you do something you think is right and someone gets upset about it, even if you could have predicted that, the upset is nevertheless that person's responsibility. And if you do something you know is wrong and another person is upset about that, their upset is similarly their own responsibility.

You may decide to withhold an action because of a predicted effect, although that effect is another's responsibility. Here it is an ethical judgment - withholding that action, if it is the right thing to do, may be doing a bad action of commission.

Sometimes you do something you know another probably won't like, because it is the right and therefore responsible thing to do. The other person's reaction is their personal responsibility.

For example if you were to withhold doing personal development because your partner has said they do not want you to change in any way, perhaps because they project their personal fears and insecurities, that is your choice. But if you consider making a better life for yourself is the ethical thing to do - for the benefit of yourself and ultimately for others too - and you tell your partner that and she gets upset, it is your partner who is responsible for the upset - it is her interpretation of your actions that creates her own upset, not your action in itself, which is a responsible action.

You can genuinely love someone whilst nevertheless doing something they don't like or agree with. You do it because you feel it is the right thing to do, though you still understand and have empathy for their different viewpoint (that causes their emotional reaction, part of their 'case' that they have created by their own choices and belief system).

If one only did things others can easily accept then the status quo would never progress. That would truly be a trap. The solution here is better communication, leading to increased understanding of each other's viewpoint, and therefore acceptance of the differing personal realities.

Response: Peter, thank you for these explanations. Something blew. I realize that I have got some false data from my previous practices regarding the meaning of responsibility. And also from Christianity, maybe. I also see that there must be some strong agreement (imprint?) to feel sad, guilty, etc. for painful emotions our actions may cause to others.

A: Yes, all one's case is tied up in this and certainly there is conditioning from many sources and social mores that confuse the issue. In society there's a general misconception that you are your emotions. "I am angry" and "you make me angry". This is conditioning not truth. In terms of cause and effect, it's a viewpoint at effect. Some say that to be happy only do what others can easily experience - it's the same lie.

The Church teaches "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you". This is however not the same lie, as if you are being ethical then it's going to be OK for others to do the same to you. And if it isn't then you'd better re-think whether you are indeed doing the right thing. It is one definition of a 'wrong' action: that which you would not like another to do to you.

One of the confusions is to do with level of game. There's being the Gamesmaker, the creator of reality, which is a source condition, not a games condition. More commonly, life on Earth is a games condition. Game requires other-determinism, unknowns, barriers, disagreements. When you play football you are responsible for your actions and helping your team to score goals. You don't worry about the other side being upset when you score.

It's a basic principle of respect for others and granting them beingness, that they are responsible for their actions and reactions - that is their freedom of choice. They are not a slave or puppet. One can consider a question like "What could I be responsible for?" and one may conclude "everything". That may ultimately be true but it is not necessarily the best approach to life, for happiness for yourself and others.

That "You create your own reality" is true but nonetheless this reality is indeed real! If it's raining, I might consider "This is wonderful, so good for nature and it smells lovely" whilst another person says "How awful, I'm not going out in that, how depressing." Two realities, but subjective ones.

From your interpretation of reality you make decisions and your decisions and choices and emotional tone have enormous influence on the direction of your life and what happens. Psychic and telepathic phenomena are also a big factor, but generally act subconsciously as the society suppresses them, because they threaten the status quo game of a purely mechanical reality, based on competitive survival.

There are better games to play, which give win-win results, but still the element of fun requires unknowns and randomness, even if self-imposed. In one's own universe and when exteriorised from this Earth game, one can adopt more of a source viewpoint that does not have the same games conditions. Like in lucid dreaming when you can create/do what you want. And one can 'awaken' in this game and start to influence it, to play as Gamesmaker, and create a better game.

Looking at life and relationships in terms of Communication, Understanding and Empathy (CUE) is a spiritual viewpoint. It is like the 'love of God' - it can seem harsh but it's about the 'greatest good'. It has no room for the 'victim' identification, jealousy and those kinds of very human responses, which are based on conditioned lies.

Consideration for the other person comes into play when you judge ethics, what is best overall, not just for oneself. However the other may not agree with your judgment nor like it. That is an aspect of the unknown and randomness of the game. You try to make it a win-win rather than competitive game by increasing the qualities of CUE.

You are responsible for your choices, decisions and actions. For being true to your judgment. For communicating with honesty and integrity, developing and maintaining an open mind, and promoting understanding and empathy. For never compromising your freedoms and rights nor trampling on another's. For always acting from the primary motivation of love. That's all and quite enough.

Peter Shepherd is the founder and producer of the Trans4mind personal development website, author of 'Transforming the Mind' and producer of the Mind Development courses (free to download). Read Peter's biography page and send a message.
More articles by Peter Shepherd in the Counterpoint Article Library as well as the Inside Out Blog, plus listen to his regular Podcasts
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