Who Is Responsible?

As I’ve said a number of times, we are responsible for our own actions and words. We are not responsible for the words and actions of others. If someone does something that upsets us, we can tell them. “When you do (or say) that, I feel angry.” Not “When you do (or say that), you make me angry.”

No one can make you feel anything.

Nor can you make someone else feel something. We each choose to feel what we feel. If we say something hurtful to someone, we are 100% responsible for our words. If they decide to blast us with angry rejection, they are 100% responsible for their words. We can make choices about how we will react to other people. And other people can make choices about how they react to us. And the one making the choice is responsible for the choice made.

There is someone I love very much in my extended family who has made choices throughout the years to react in anger and retaliation to family members. After an angry tirade of abusive words, this person always says, “I wouldn’t have had to say those things if you hadn’t……..” Many people who are the victims of abuse hear those words often. The message is, “Your choices are totally to blame for my behavior.” That is 100% wrong!

The codependent patterns in my life developed early in childhood and for years my reaction to this person was to placate and and excuse behavior. I blamed myself for triggering the episodes. I learned early in life that whatever happened to me was completely my fault and if I were just a better person, if I just said and did the right things, I wouldn’t have to endure the tirades.

As I began this journey of healing, I realized that no matter what I had done or said, I did not deserve to be treated with verbal abuse. I had assumed responsibility for another person’s behavior and had been held responsible by my family for fixing the problem. As a result, I had carried that responsibility into my marriage, into ministry, and all other areas of my life. If something went wrong, I thought it was because I had not performed the way I should have. And it was my job to fix it.

A little over three years ago that person in my family attacked me verbally again. This time I did not take responsibility for that reaction. I did not try to fix it. There were consequences, as there always are when we begin to stand up for ourselves. That person determined to end our relationship and has not spoken to me since. My family turned to me to fix it. There was the usual implication that I had helped cause it. This time I stood my ground. I was willing to talk with that person and work things out, but I would not just ignore the behavior and pretend everything was okay as I had in the past. There are consequences to abusing people and that person has never had to face them.

As a family we had always ignored behavior so that person would be comfortable. This time was different.I have contacted that person once since then to express my love while at the same time standing firm that the decision to renew relationship must be accompanied by a willingness to address issues. So far, I have received no response. It is sad, but it is the reality of the situation. I cannot make that person change. I am not responsible for that person’s change. I am responsible for my own changes. I pray that some day that person will choose to get healthy and to deal with issues. Until then, I will continue to love, but I refuse to be abused.

Do you feel responsible for everything negative that happens in your life? Do you blame yourself when things go wrong? Be honest with yourself today. Look at the last issue you faced in your marriage. Take responsibility for what you said or did. No one “made” you do or say those things. You are responsible for yourself, for your decisions and your choices, and for your actions and reactions.

Now release responsibility for everything else. How your spouse responds is not your responsibility. How your children respond is not your responsibility. How anyone in your life responds or reacts is not your responsibility. When our spouse is not listening to the Lord or following His directions in life, his or her reactions will many times be ungodly. If you are reacting to your spouse’s reactions, you will enter into a vortex that begins to suck the very life out of you. Dysfunctional behavior only reflects dysfunction. Do not use it as your barometer for normality.

I have said it before and will say it again and again. Keep your eyes on Jesus and ask Him what you should say and do. He is not dysfunctional nor is He reactionary. You can trust what He tells you. It will keep you solid and strong when the storm swirls around you. Like Peter walking on the water, you can only be swallowed up by circumstances when you take your eyes off Jesus. Love, Marilyn

And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Matthew 8:24-27

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Proverbs 18:21

Author: Marilyn Phillipps

Married 49 years, we have three children and six grandchildren. My initial career of nursing prepared me to work with marriages that are wounded and in need of healing. For 35 my husband and I have led 2=1 International, a ministry to marriages and families around the world. We have seen miracle after miracle when many had given up hope.

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