Getting Your Act(ions) Together: Taking Responsibility

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Delia played the “blame game.” Whenever something was not to her satisfaction, she blamed someone else. She never asked herself if she had contributed anything to the situation. Even when clear-cut facts were brought to her attention, she refused to accept or admit any responsibility. Could this explain her failed marriage and general state of melancholy?


It’s amazing how many people deflect responsibility for their actions and choices and blame others or circumstances for their problems. Whileplaying the “blame game” is common, too much deflection of responsibility is actually a self-defeating behavior pattern.

Those who insist on placing responsibility on factors beyond their control will tend to feel powerless and helpless. Only by accepting personal responsibility for our choices and actions can we enable ourselves to feel effective and more in control of our lives.

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Taking responsibility doesn’t mean that we have total control over our destinies. In reality we all are affected by events beyond our control such as our genetic endowments, and a host of random, environmental factors.

But within the vast currents of our lives and their surrounding circumstances, we can take hold of our personal rudders and steer our life course in specific directions. You must accept responsibility for your choices and behaviors.

Consider that blame and credit are opposite sides of the same entity. If we want to blame others for our misfortunes and problems, perhaps we should also give them credit for our successes and accomplishments. Likewise, liberty and responsibility are flip sides of the same concept; you can’t have one without the other.

Dr. Victor Frankl, a renowned existential psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, recently emphasized this point. Dr. Frankl commented on how odd it is that the United States of America boasts an impressive Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, yet no monument exalting responsibility exists to balance the privilege of liberty.

Just as Dr. Frankl believes that in San Francisco harbor a Statue of Responsibility should be erected to achieve this balance, so many of us need to accept our personal responsibility to balance the great liberty we all enjoy as citizens of this country.• Take responsibility for your actions and decisions and become the architect and engineer of your future.