“I feel responsible for the way they behave!”
Those were the words I heard recently while talking with a friend about what was happening in his life. We’ll call this friend “Greg.” After a few more minutes of conversation, Greg told me that he has a friend—whom we’ll call “Dave”—and that he feels responsible for the way Dave behaves. It was making Greg’s life miserable. He felt responsible for his own actions and responsible for someone else’s life.
Are you Greg?
I doubt that’s your actual name. (It’s not Greg’s either.) But like my friend, do you feel responsible for the decisions and actions of someone else? Maybe it’s your sister? Your mom? Your best friend? Your boyfriend?
There are times I see someone making a decision, and I feel embarrassed or awkward about what they’re going to do. Like that time we were on a TV show and my mom was going to take a photo of one of the TV monitors (the big screen you watch in the studio as the show happens live). I felt embarrassed about the “mom moment” and asked her not to take the picture. Looking back it wasn’t one of my proudest moments.
If you’re struggling with feeling responsible for other people’s decisions, I’ve been there. What does the Bible say to us?
Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Here are four takeaways that can help us let go of feeling responsibility for another person’s actions.
1. Claim responsibility for your own actions.
There are plenty of people who point their fingers at someone else when things go wrong. Don’t be one of those people. We’ll stand out if we own up to our own shortcomings and take responsibility for our actions.
2. Don’t be a blame-shifter.
Let’s take a look back, way back to Genesis 3. We’re at the beginning of our created world. Adam and Eve have just taken a bite of the forbidden fruit and then . . . God calls to them. He asks them what they’ve done. And immediately Adam points a finger at Eve and blames her for giving him the fruit. And there’s our first blame-shifter (Eve followed soon after by blaming the serpent). Don’t point fingers. Own up to your own actions.
3. Own your response.
Here’s one thing we are responsible for: how we respond to someone’s actions. If we believe we’re responsible for someone else, it’s going to stress us out and mess us up. However, if we let go of that feeling of responsibility and treat them with love and respect, we are free to enjoy (vs. control) others.
4. Let. It. Go.
We need to let go of feeling responsibility for someone else. There’s nothing we can do about the actions of our family or friends except to love them through the consequences just like Jesus would. He gives us grace. Let’s give it away to others.
We can boil everything we’ve talked about down to a single sentence: You ready? We are responsible for our own decisions, actions, and words, and we’re not responsible for the actions, decisions, or words of anyone else.
How can this truth shift how you treat others today?