Taking personal responsibility

Being responsible for your own actions and choices.

Like this photo of Mercury in Colchester I prefer to take responsibility by showing by example rather than telling people how to to think and behave.

Photo of the messenger god Mercury in Colchester.  I like to take responsibility by sending messages via showing by example.

We are responsible for our own choices and actions, but we are only responsible for the choices and actions of others if we are in a position of trust, for example as a teacher looking after students or as boss over employees.  The local Colchester newspaper today gave three examples of those who failed to take personal responsibility, or went beyond their limits of responsibility.

The first example is a retail trader who sells stationary, announces he is closing his business due to health problems from traffic pollution.  The retailer blamed the local council for failing to ban traffic from using the street he trades in.  This retailer has been trading from the same location for over thirty years, in all this time he has the choice and responsibility to move his business to a better location, but he chose to stay and thus suffered harm from pollution.  The irresponsible blames someone or something, though they need only look in the mirror to see the true culprit.

The second example is a resident who demands the local council kill all Colchester foxes because they rip their rubbish apart leaving a mess.   Foxes are opportunistic creatures who naturally will enjoy an easy meal from carelessly stored trash.  The council informs residents of rubbish collection day, the onus is upon the resident to secure their rubbish safely until rubbish collection day.  It is easy to blame fox or council, but responsibility is with the resident to keep foxes away from their rubbish.

Last example is a responsible resident like me who attempts to keep their local nature park free of litter. People annoy me when they fail to take their rubbish home with them, however my responsibility stops at picking up litter, I have no right to tell people to pick up their litter, this is a form of control.  In my opinion it is better to show rather than tell, to set an example that others may follow, never to take away choice of others by telling them what to think or do.  My fellow resident found a discarded receipt thrown on the ground by some children, then demanded access to CCTV footage from a retail store so they could track the children down to lecture them on littering.  Fortunately UK data protection laws bans private citizen access to CCTV footage, the last thing any parent wants is a hubristic vigilante at their door wanting to speak to their children.

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10 responses to “Taking personal responsibility

  1. When I first read, “we are only responsible for the choices and actions of others if we are responsible for them, such as a teacher or boss,” I went, Huh? How can that be? But after further reading, I get what you’re saying. Thanks for this post! Namaste…♥♥♥NadineMarie♥♥♥

  2. I don’t have a problem with foxes – food waste goes in a food recycling bin provided by the council, which locks down. Anything else which can’t be recycled goes in bin bags which don’t get put out until I leave for work on the morning of collection. Sometimes other people get their bags ripped open because they don’t bother using the food bins and put their bin bags out the night before – they never seem to learn!

    • Hi Emily, I have foxes living next door to me, and there are simple methods to protect bin bags from their hungry attentions. Stupidity and laziness has always been a pitfall of many people, I have no sympathy for the person who wrote the complaint letter in my newspaper about the foxes.

  3. This was timely for me as I have been watching someone I care about self-destruct. It goes against every thing I believe to be important to intervene and tell someone what I think of their actions, but it is hard to sit and watch it.

    The person who wanted to see the camera footage has definitely gone too far. The man who had to close his business due to health, I’m curious, here may of the small independent business owners own their building and live in apartments above their storefront. Could this have been the case? If so I wonder if his attachment to his home and the memories prevented him from moving. Even so it’s not anyone else’s responsibility he became ill.

    • I think the retailer may have owned the shop, but did not live there. Thirty years is a an awful long time to do nothing, there would have been opportunities in that period to sell and find a healthier place to trade.

      Life provides good lessons from misfortune, sometimes it is better to let things run their natural course without intervention, otherwise we take a learning opportunity away from a person.

  4. Interesting post. It covers a couple of issues fairly close to my heart.

    Firstly, the main topic of responsibilties.
    I say, like you, that a person is responsible for their actions. But I also extend this to say that they are also responsible for their non-actions. You first example of the retail trader blaming the council for his ill health is a perfect example. I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head by pointing out that he’d had 30 years of not taking action. This is what I mean by being responsible for your non-actions.
    He chose to stay instead of move. Another person may well argue that he was not well enough informed. This may well be the case, but I’m sorry buddy. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t be well enough informed. And even you the information and / or knowledge wasn’t available at the time, then sorry bud, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

    Secondly, you brushed again on the topic of control.
    I know this will seem contradictory to what I said recently… oh well…
    If you were to attempt to place a level of control over those who dropped the litter by saying ‘Oi, pick it up!’, then you would be attempting to control the few to benefit the masses.
    A little rule I try to live up to is ‘Live and let live, unless it is to the detriment of another.’

    Nice post.

    • I agree with you Danny, in nature ignorance is punished, over 30 years this man would have had plenty of warnings from his body that pollution was impacting his health, but he chose non-action, and so he suffers the penalty. I have no sympathy for him.

      On your second point, I would not intervene, unless I was in charge of Hilly Fields, then the visitor would be under a contract to leave Hilly Fields litter free, and if not I will then tell them “Oi, pick it up!”

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