Taking Responsibility

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I was driving to meet a client the other day when a memory popped in my head.  It’s funny how that works— I had forgotten all about the experience and then out of the blue, it was there again.  So much had transpired on my family’s ski trip in British Columbia that I guess it had slipped my mind.


It happened on our third day of skiing.  The three of us were getting ready to take the ski lift up for another run.  A woman a few chairs ahead had difficulty getting on the ski lift and dropped one of her poles in the process.  As we got onto the ski lift, the operator asked us if we would take her pole up and give it to her.  Of course we said yes, and I grabbed it to take it up.


The first thing that my husband said to me was, “Be careful and don’t drop the pole.” As you can imagine, that comment didn’t sit well with me. Of course I was going to be careful— I wasn’t a child.  He offered to hold it but I refused to give it to him.


About ¾ way to our destination, I moved around on my seat and got my legs in another position.  They were cramping from the non-stop exercise.  As I found a more comfortable position, I watched the extra pole fall many feet down and into the deep snow.  I had forgotten in that second that I was holding a third pole.


The three of us stared at the pole as it dove into the snow and then both my husband and son looked directly at me.  I felt pretty stupid. I quickly reviewed my options to remedy this situation but I came up empty.  I messed up and I felt terrible. Moaning about it for the rest of the ride, I was taking full responsibility for the situation.


Yes, my family understood why I felt bad, but they questioned whether I was taking the responsibility thing a bit too far.  They reminded me that it was the woman who had initially messed up and that I was being a Good Samaritan by trying to help.  When we got off, we told the worker what had happened and he said not to worry about it.


As we skied down the mountain, we decided to take the exact same run and ski lift back up.  On my way down, I still couldn’t shake this feeling of responsibility. I felt really, really bad.  When we got on the ski lift, my worst nightmare happened. The woman with one ski pole was in the chair in front of us.  She proceeded to complain loudly about the idiot that had dropped her pole.  She was angry and upset and went on and on about the situation.  I slouched down in my chair, praying that she didn’t know the idiot was sitting right behind her.


Often, the message in my writing is one of taking responsibility for your own actions and decisions in your life.  However, it’s very possible that you can take this responsibility thing way to far.  In fact, you can take it to the point where the other individual no longer has to take responsibility at all. I find myself guilty of this on occasion and this situation is a very good example.  When you don’t let others take their fair share of responsibility, it thwarts their ability to grow and learn in their own life.


Take your fair share and leave the rest where it belongs.