The ego very rarely takes substantive responsibility. When the ego attempts to take responsibility, it creates a painful, virtually unbearable contraction in the self. So the ego becomes the master of the excuse. The Unique Self is able to take responsibility spontaneously, lightly, and with full gravitas. The Unique Self holds with equal measure of gravitas and ease its own responsibility and its rightful anger at injustice. Usually, the ego advises the other person to “take responsibility,” while the ego itself wallows in the real and imagined offenses that it has suffered.
Just hearing words like responsibility or obligation often lets our ego contract in pain and sometimes anger. From our separate selves the idea of taking responsibility often seems like pure impertinence. Finding the balance between taking the right measure of personal responsibility and being gentle with ourselves seems to be an important issue for most of us.
“The second shadow of the personal is victimology.” Marc Gafni explains in Your Unique Self. “The hypersensitive self perceives every offense to its small self as abusive. It assumes a victim identity as its Ground of Being. The victim is filled with an inflated sense of rights, and a deflated sense of responsibility and obligations.” (p. 99)
On the other hand we have the New Age notion of being 100% responsible for creating “our own reality.” Dr. Marc discusses this in Your Unique Self:
Taking total responsibility is actually a disguised form of hubris. It is a refusal to give up control. In this case, the control is maintained precisely through “taking responsibility.” But your insistence on being the sole creator of your reality ignores the larger creative field of which you are but one small part. It ignores the greater evolutionary intelligence at work in and through your life. It ignores the mystery, and blithely dismisses all other people in the story as but supporting actors in your narcissistic control drama. Total control of your life in the form of total responsibility is not an expression of spirit—quite the opposite. It is one of the more clever disguises of the narcissistic ego.
What is appropriate is for you to identify your contribution, if any, to creating the conditions that led to your suffering. You can and must take 100 percent responsibility for your part. This, however, is a more nuanced, sacred, and humble posture than 100 percent responsibility for everything. (p.341)
So, what is the appropriate balance? And what kind of responsibility is it that our Unique Self calls us to?
I think we need to discern between three kinds of responsibility here:
Number 1: Our responsibility in relationships when hurt occurs – our own hurt as well as the hurt of the other person or people involved. Here it is indeed important to take responsibility for our part in the “contribution system” as Dr. Marc calls it, and for our own (re)action:
You are not a victim of your past. When you stop either ignoring or overdramatizing past events, you also stop unconsciously using life trauma from the past to avoid giving the depth of love that is yours to give in the present moment.
The pain of the past may have come to you through another. Your present reaction is yours. You are doing it. You must assume responsibility for your own complex of reactivity. Reactive emotion and reenactment do not need to be a fact of your nature. You can take your armor off. You can unguard your heart and trust yourself to live and love from an intense armorless vulnerability. This is the safest place from which to live.” (Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, p.325)
Number 2: The second kind of responsibility is about the obligation to “live a life well-lived” and give our Unique gifts:
The core axiom of biblical thought is the dignity of personhood, which is rooted in the ontology of responsibility. Human actions matter. The basic breakthrough of consciousness that stands at the center of Hebrew wisdom and is the source of all human dignity is that there is something that needs to be done. Every human being is called to do something with their life. That something is infinitely unique in the life of every person. To respond to that call, both in one’s private and public life, means having enjoyed a well-lived life.
A life well lived does not mean a life without mistakes. It means making mistakes in the right direction. A famous Talmudic passage, reread by my teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica, says roughly, “One cannot follow the direction of one’s life until one first fails in pursuing that very direction.” In another passage, the Talmud itself says, “The wicked man falls once and does not rise, the Master falls seven times and rises again each time.” (Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, pp.352-353)
This responsibility includes that we are responsible for our own awakening to our Unique Self:
Unique Self enlightenment is a genuine possibility and therefore a responsibility for every human being. …
As we have already seen, democratization of enlightenment, therefore, does not mean that everyone is enlightened, but rather that a full expression of authentic unique essence is a genuine possibility and therefore a genuine expression of love-obligation for every living being. In other words, awakening to your Unique Self it is the joy and responsibility of answering the call. (Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, pp.23-24)
Number 3: There is still a greater responsibility: the radical creativity and ecstatic joy that comes from participating in the evolution of God:
The core ecstatic ethical meditation of the New Enlightenment is, “The world is created for and by my Unique Path.” This is not a declaration of hubris but a statement of responsibility.
To be connected to your Unique Self means to know that your story is sufficiently important, significant, and wonderful, and that the entire world was created for its sake. The dignity of your story demands no less than that you get up every morning and know that your very next action has the power to shape the destiny of our collective future.
A person who knows and feels that they are held in the great heart of the kosmos may experience pain, fear, frustration, confusion, or anxiety, and not lose their ground. In this way you learn how to directly experience the brokenness, chaos, and pain of your own mind without being destroyed by them. If you can bear everything that arises without closing your heart, only then will you be able to take responsibility for it. If you can’t bear it, others will inevitably suffer the consequences.” (Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, p.268)
You might want to reflect on the following questions:
When was a time where you blamed someone else instead of taking responsibility for your part in the contribution system? How did it feel? Can you stop the blame game and take responsibility now – maybe making amends to that person and forgiving yourself?
When – on the other hand – did you take too much responsibility? How did that feel? Can you release that extra responsibility, let it go back to source (to God, the culture, the other person) and rejoice in this lighter way of being and becoming?
Where and when do you tend to make excuses – not fully showing up and giving your gifts to the world? Where do you feel the overwhelm of your separate self when it thinks it has to carry the whole world on its shoulders?
And finally: Can you feel the joy of your Unique Self taking appropriate responsibility for its fair share, for giving its Unique gifts, staying open as love even when in pain, and thereby contributing to the evolution of God in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person?
Please, share your thoughts about this with us in the comments or on Facebook.