Exactly Who is Responsible for This?
July 16, 2012
My pup Lucy seems to place higher value on one dog treat above all others offered to her. Unlike most other treats that I give her, she doesn’t snap her “Busy Bone” up and consume it right away. She takes it gingerly and then acts all weird about this gift I gave her.
Lucy gets herself all in a whining tizzy, wandering to and fro with the bone in her mouth. Then she comes over and drops it in my lap as if to say, “It’s just too much to deal with. I love it, but I want you to have it back. I don’t know if I should eat it or bury it for later. I’d rather not have it at all than make the wrong choice here.”
My dog has a problem with responsibility. She doesn’t wanna “take” it, even if it will be rewarding.
Before you think this is a canine commentary, I better let you know that I think it holds some truth about human hesitation to own our outcomes. In fact, in a marriage, figuring out what each person is responsible for and intentionally “taking” that responsibility can be key to a more harmonious life.
That sounds good. Yet, having to be accountable for our own adult choices—our own freedom—can kick up all sorts of uncomfortable insecurities in us. Just ask Adam—“Well, God, that woman that YOU gave me, SHE gave me the forbidden fruit…what was I supposed to do?” (Genesis 3:12)
Or maybe you can identify with the dilemma the servant in Matthew 25 had when his master entrusted him with a bag of his gold to steward while he was out of town. Unlike his fellow servants who were faithful to double their investment, this guy did what a lot of people do—he got scared and didn’t do anything. “Yeah, master, I was afraid I might make a mistake and disappoint you, so I buried the money and I’m giving it all back to you safe and sound.” (Matthew 25:25) The master gives a furious reply, “It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!”
So, how can you enjoy the rewards of responsibility?:
Divide up the duties. Even just naming and claiming for yourself a few of the mundane, ongoing chores in your household can ease one of the biggest causes of marital conflict. The real problems usually surface when one or both spouses don’t give importance to each other’s responsibilities and underestimate them—or it’s vague as to who should be doing what. In my household, when we decided my husband would always be in charge of dishes, trash, mail and folding clothes, I was relieved. If he chooses to not do them on my preferred timetable, I’ve had to train myself to not come along and do them myself (out of spite), unless he asks for help, or I choose to do it as a gift of service to him.
Own your actions. What actions are you responsible for? Well, the short answer is ALL of them! A responsible person owns his or her actions or reactions, moods and attitudes. A sign of maturity is when you realize how powerful you really are to make choices that either help or hinder. Own your mistakes. Own your growth. There’s no gain in placing blame, making excuses or playing the victim to justify your own unhappiness or unproductive behavior.
Delegate decision making. Some decisions in married life are worthy of gaining consensus and mutual ownership—like agreeing on family values or deciding to move. Others can be defined and delegated to the responsible spouse with the most strength and experience in handling certain situations. Helping your spouse feel empowered and not burdened by your control or disapproval is important. My husband is confident to let me make primary decisions on how to distribute the monthly income, for instance, while I defer to him for determining vehicle and home maintenance needs. When a person is faithful to “take” responsibility, they will experience more freedom and less control, and enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment.
“From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
Tahni Cullen is the Ministry Director at the Spring Lake Park campus, and has been a staff member at Eagle Brook for more than 11 years. She’s been married to Joe for 14 years, and has a son, Josiah (6). You can follow their journey with autism on her blog www.hopingnotcoping.wordpress.com.