Uninvited Responsibility?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to shout, “Can’t I just play without consequences or responsibility for my actions?!” I think we all have that rebellious child somewhere inside that wants to be immature and irresponsible. I sometimes see her lurking in my eyes when I look in the mirror. Billy Joel wrote about that person in his song “The Stranger.” So what do we do when we meet this person? How did we invite the responsibilities that sometimes feel like shackles in our lives?

At my age, I simply cannot wish my responsibilities away. I wouldn’t want to 99.9% of the time. My responsibilities are of my choosing and help me define myself. I enjoy the self-efficacy that has come with the increasing responsibilities in my life. I am confident in my integrity and in my choices.

Recently, I have been following James Lehman, who introduced me to the concept of “responsible love,” which transcends the idea of unconditional love. The idea of unconditional love is that you love someone without expectations of reciprocation. Until I considered the idea of responsible love, I thought that unconditional love was the pinnacle of acceptance in relationships. I now find myself disagreeing with that concept a little.  Unconditional love can invite acceptance of and indulgence in irresponsible behaviors. For instance, I have had friends whom I loved unconditionally and would eat food with them that promoted self-destructive behaviors. Why? It made us feel good and was a way that I thought could express my love. And that’s just one example.

Responsible love is unconditional love blended with responsibility. It means separating love from pandering. If I say “I love you” and allow you to engage in self-destructive or otherwise unacceptable behavior, then is that really love? If I truly love a person unconditionally, then I have the responsibility to encourage healthy, life-giving behavior.

Shoot –that sounds like yet MORE responsibility! What about that person who doesn’t want the responsibility?

It’s simple, really. If you don’t want the responsibility that comes with truly loving someone, then don’t love them. There’s the catch. We often can’t choose whom we love. Loving someone means growing past immaturity and irresponsibility into becoming a person that we have never been. Love is a choice.

I choose to love myself enough to seek healthy, responsible behaviors. I choose to love other people to want the same for them as I do for myself.

As I invite love, I invite responsibility. The two are inseparable.

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