Part 1: The Facts of Life: Control vs. Responsibility
The term Responsibility Gap means there is a gap between responsibility and control: you are 100% responsible for your life, but not 100% in control.
Because there is a gap between responsibility and control, people try to avoid taking responsibility or deny that they are responsible in the first place. Fun fact: success and failure, sorrow and joy, and kindness and cruelty may befall you by random luck. You may find you have a greater tendency to rejoice and embrace the highs, while skirting the lows by scuffling around corners down foggy back alleys.
You will never close the gap between responsibility and control. There will always be circumstance and happenstance, but you can and will always be responsible.
“Responsibility” may sound heavy or intense. To lighten it, or understand it differently, think: response – ability. You are response-able. Meaning, you have the ability to respond to everything, and ponder, prepare and make choices about how you will respond in the future.
Ironically, intentionally taking responsibility can offer you greater control.
Part 2: Responsible but Not in Control: So Now What?
The Responsibility Gap can feel frustrating, unfair, or tiring. You instinctively may want to avoid responsibility or deny that you are responsible. However, you can fill the gap, in a sense, with other things.
Here are some helpful ways of thinking about the Responsibility Gap:
Prayer: If you are a spiritual person, the Serenity Prayer is a good place to start, and, is in fact a prayer. You may want to use it as such.
Intention: If you meditate or practice mindfulness you may want to set the Serenity Prayer as your intention at the beginning of the session, or at the beginning of your day, and then let it go.
Intellectual Curiosity: You might want to use the Serenity Prayer as a door in–something to muse on. How does this work? What does this mean?
Skill: You could take a skillful approach. Begin by answering these questions:
- When is a time you took responsibility for something that wasn’t entirely, or at all, in your control?
- What is an example of the Responsibility Gap that you are frequently or always good at?
- When is a time or what is a situation you have observed someone else doing it that you could relate to?
- And the opposite, when have you or someone you observed skirted responsibility?
- Explain what works and what doesn’t work. Why is it important? Plan for it to happen again. Look forward to it happening again to work your Responsibility Gap muscles.
Emotions: Use an effective process to “process” the emotions that arise because of the Gap. Move through emotions with courage and kindness. Focus on developing emotional intelligence to address Gap-related situations that create fear, anger, guilt, and shame.
Just Do It: This method has limited effectiveness but if you are teetering on the edge, you can nudge yourself into an embrace of reality and owning your life.
Part 3: The Human Condition
The Responsibility Gap affects so much of how we live our lives. Your response to the Gap may determine things like your self-efficacy, your sense of integrity, and your sense of freedom.
Facing the Responsibility Gap with care and intention can help you move from shame to blessings, anxiety to peace, guilt to appreciation, and fear to happiness.
Of course, you can’t control what will happen when you intentionally face the Gap, but you may reap rewards if you are vulnerable and open to opportunity when entering this humbling space.