Response Ability Is Cooler Than Responsibility

by Melissa Karnaze

cool baby in sunglassesEver since you were a baby, people older than you have tried to teach you how to be more responsible. And as you’ve grown older, you’ve probably seen that being responsible means being a mature adult.

Being responsible can mean being more “adult,” but it can also mean conforming to the standards of your society.

Responsibility is a construct, based on a set of rules, like morality, (Westernized) intelligence, common (among your community) sense, and respect for authority.

Responsible means doing the right thing. But what is the right thing? In this complex world of grays, is there any situation that only has one right response that is the responsible one?

Responsible can be a great word and a great concept, sometimes, given the right social context. But response able—now that’s a word (well, technically two) to get excited for!

First of all, response ability is cooler because it focuses on your ability to make choices and respond, not on your worth as a person.

    When you are a responsible person, you are somehow “better” than a not-responsible, or irresponsible person. You are more morally mature, and etcetera.
    But when you are a response able person, you respond optimally to the events in your life—much in the way that anyone is capable of doing, if they just make the choice to respond to life rather than complain about it. You see the difference there? Being response able doesn’t make you any better than others; response ability is about adapting to life.

Secondly, response ability is cooler because it focuses on your standards, and not the standards of society.

    When you are a responsible person, you have the approval of other responsible persons. You have pleased them and you are even entitled to gloat because of that (inwardly of course, so as to continue being responsible with your pride).
    But when you are a response able person, the only approval you can be sure of is self-approval (which, by the way, is the only type that really counts), because your peers or your “authority” figures may not understand or approve of of your choices. A response able person does not try to please others. A response able person finds the best way to respond to events in their life so as to improve their mental-emotional health and well-being—essentially they try to please themselves. Ah, but is that selfish? Or is it sanity?

Thirdly, response ability is cooler because it orients you toward your continual growth as an ever-increasingly emotionally intelligent and compassionate individual, instead of leading you to believe that once you’ve reached that point of responsibility, there’s no higher realm to go.

    When you strive to be a responsible person, you keep your sights on what the consensus reality deems responsible, and that ideal tends to be more static than expansive—it has to be for any consensus reality to adopt it as stable enough for becoming an ideal.
    But when you strive to be response able to your life, you keep your sights on how you can continually adapt and grow so that you learn from your past and choose more conscious, emotionally intelligent, and compassionate responses to the events in your life—and you learn to follow your own inner guidance.

So then not only is response ability self-centered (on your mental-emotional health and well being), and sanity (so that you are not overcome by being a victim of your life), but it is also to the benefit of those whom you interact with in life because your relationships improve when your mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and compassion grow. Everyone wins here.

Do you see now how response ability is cooler than responsibility? You know, if you really want to get all intellectual about it, sometimes response ability encompasses responsibility, when it’s kind of responsibility that meets the criteria mentioned in the three points above. So in that case, both terms win too.

I’m not trying to bash responsibility here; like I said, it’s a great concept under the right social conditions.

I’m trying to show you the power that lies in reframing the word in to two.

So stop and take notice at the beauty of a word (well, technically two) that is: response ability.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Haider January 14, 2010 at 7:49 am

Dayum! Response ability *is* cooler! :P

Sadly, responsibility has many negative associations, that people tend to overlook the value (and meaning!) of being responsible. This is why people tend to blame others and their circumstances: as long as they can relieve themselves of responsibility, then they cannot be held accountable for their failures.

However, the focus shouldn’t be on who to blame, but what can be done to reach one’s goal. To me, responsibility simply means that it’s up to me to take the necessary actions to face the challenges that I encounter on my way towards my goals. Blaming others won’t bring me any closer to my goals.

Melissa Karnaze January 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

Haider, I would say you have a very cool definition of responsibility.

It’s only because responsibility has such negative associations that this article even exists!

In the end, it’s all about what you mentioned, working toward your goals — which blame, more often than not, gets in the way of.

Leave a Comment

By clicking "Submit" you understand that your submission may be edited or rejected at my discretion, and/or used in upcoming articles or publications. Unconstructive criticism, personal attacks, and requests for personal advice likely will not be published. Please refer to my Disclaimer if you have any questions.

{ 1 trackback }