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Who's Responsible For This Mess?

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"I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast."
-- Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Now there's a thought! A statue of Responsibility - perhaps our new President should consider this for one of the public works projects we will be funding. Alcatraz might be an interesting choice - kind of a "take a look at what you are creating" message. Heck, maybe we could even place a few of the more deserving financial felons in residence there.

OK - perhaps incarcerating those in the spotlight misses the main point here: who is responsible for this mess anyway?

After all, this is America and there must be someone to blame, someone to sue. Couldn't be me, that's for sure.

Unless, of course, it could.

That's the point of this post and a several more to follow: How am I, how are you responsible for the current situation in which we find ourselves?

It seems that over the past couple of decades, we have allowed ourselves, and therefore our country and its institutions, to drift away from some fundamental qualities of responsibility and accountability.

If this isn't immediately clear, I can understand. After all, we have become such a blame-focused society that a person can injure themselves and still take some kind of righteous stance that someone else is to blame and someone else should pay.

How about the person who ordered a cup of coffee, presumably wanting the coffee to be hot, managed to spill it on themselves, and then wound up suing the vendor because the coffee was, well, hot? And they won!

I mean if you can get what you want, misuse it, hurt yourself in the process, blame someone else for your own choices and actions, and still wind up being compensated for your own irresponsible behavior, how can we be surprised at the mess we currently find ourselves in?

Don't get me wrong - we all know there are bad guys out there doing bad things. The point of this article is not to defend the wrong doers.

However, the point is to underscore that each of us has our own responsibility for our own circumstances. Common usage has the word responsibility meaning something akin to blame, fault, or cause. I like to think of the word as being made up of two words - "response" and "ability" or "having the ability to respond."

We can use the notion of "having the ability to respond" as a way to look back at circumstances to determine how we got here in the first place. What role did I play? What choices did I make? Did I create this situation out of my own direct actions? Did I promote this situation out of a less direct but still involved set of actions? Or did I allow this situation out of my own inactions - I saw it coming and didn't do anything about it?

These are pretty empowering concepts if you take them to heart and look deeply at your role in creating your current circumstances.

How many of us have ever overextended ourselves financially? We knew we couldn't afford it and yet we bought it anyway? That could range from the smallish item we put on our credit cards to the house we couldn't afford but wanted to pretend would work out somehow.

Sure, there are all manner of folks out there who are willing to help us live out our self deceptions. You can call these folks credit card companies, bankers, loan brokers, real estate agents, etc. Some of these people are fine human beings - moral, ethical, and willing to help. Others are less scrupulous, all too willing to escort us into financial difficulty through any number of inappropriate financial devices.

However, none of these people or institutions can escort us where we don't wish to go.

A great opportunity is upon us individually and as a nation - the opportunity to take a more active, response-able, and involved role in creating and owning our future. However, we won't get too far into an improved future if we don't take stock of how we got here in the first place.

I know it is fashionable to blame the Bush fables for our current circumstances. However, who chose to believe these fables in the first place?

So, I suggest taking a look at your current situation and simply ask yourself: how did I Create, Promote or Allow this in my life? You may find it useful to read a previous post on how you can move from being a victim to being accountable for your life circumstances.

Today's article asks you to become accountable for your current life circumstances by examining your own role in creating them. Hopefully, this will help you create an even better set of circumstances going forward.

Next week, we will look at responsibility and accountability from a future focused point of view: How are you responsible to the current situation?

We are all aware of circumstances surrounding us right now, circumstances that impact friends, families and strangers. Even if you are not responsible for these circumstances, they are here nonetheless.

So, unless you want to become or remain a victim of these circumstances, the question will become how are we responsible to these circumstances? How can we become part of the solution we might all prefer?

Blessings to you!

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)