The Difference Between Control And Responsibility

Apr 23, 2018

Control is limiting; responsibility is listening.

Control is about ratcheting down behavior; responsibility is about responding to situations in an appropriate way.

Say you have a puppy that is whining and barking. To control it, you could just put it in a crate and ignore it. To be responsible for it would be to go interact with it and see what it needed (to go outside to pee? Some play or training? A nap?), and then respond appropriately.

When it comes to our own lives and selves, the ideal situation to be responsible for our own needs isn't always available. Sometimes it does feel like it would be better/easier to put our needs aside and just get on with whatever it is we feel that we have to get done that day.

Here's the thing: this doesn't have to be black and white, one choice or the other.

Yes, it would be ideal if we could all have the time, space, and resources to meet all of our authentic needs in a timely and healthy way. However, sometimes we are hungry at work and it's not time for lunch yet, or we are lonely for someone that lives far away. Does that mean that you have to deny that need, put your puppy-self in a crate and ignore it?

Nope. Just as we would do with a puppy or young child, we can speak to ourselves with practicality and kindness. In the example of being hungry when it’s not feasible to eat yet, you could speak to yourself kindly: “Oh, I do wish I could help you right away, but I can’t quite yet. If you wait a little while, I will make sure you get taken care of, okay?”

While that doesn’t help the primary problem (hunger), it addresses the possible negative fallout from that hunger: anxiety, feeling uptight (is that just me?), and impatience. In this way, we are acknowledging our needs, and responding to them, which is being responsible, instead of trying to control them. Control might look more like, “You can’t eat yet. Just wait and be quiet!”, which is much less reassuring.

The bottom line: The sweeter you are to yourself, the more comfortable you will be in everyday life.

Please notice that I did not say, “let go of all your practical guidelines and do whatever you want to do in each approaching hedonistic moment.” That approach, in the long run, is not practical or kind.

What do you think? Next time you find yourself arguing with reality, would you be willing to approach yourself with kind understanding?

Love your inner puppy.

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