The Power of Control and Responsibility: A Whackadoodle lesson regarding the importance of taking responsibility for your choices in order to take control of your life, including a few words about not falling to the dark side. If you have entered this story in the middle, click here for the table of contents.
“Just like with personality, people fall along a spectrum when it comes to how the little or how much they take control of and responsibility for their lives,” I explained one more time. “Unlike with personality, which is innate, control is a mindset that can be changed.”
“You do know that you lost me completely with that last sentence,” she informed me drily.
“Which words lost you?”
“Hum,” she wrinkled up her nose, thinking back. “Spectrum, personality, innate, mindset. Pretty much the whole sentence.”
Okay,” I laughed. “Let’s break it down. We are all born with a personality, or temperament, which seldom changes; it’s inherent. For example, people tend towards being either an introvert, or an extrovert. Some can even be extreme introverts, meaning they really just prefer that other people leave them alone. To them, lockdown would have felt like a vacation. Others might be extreme extroverts, meaning they crave the interactions and affirmations of others. In their case, lockdown would have driven them straight to the Internet. So far so good?” I asked.
“I think so,” she answered tentatively.
I nodded, and continued. “Spectrum in this case means that most people will find themselves somewhere between those two extremes. Most people have a little bit of both.” I paused. “Still following?”
“Sure,” she nodded. “It’s like the rainbow. We say the colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet; but really there are a bunch of other colors in between.”
“Exactly,” I smiled. “It is the same with control and responsibility.”
She cocked her head, trying to take it in, “So what are the two extremes?” she asked after a moment.
“In one extreme, people take no responsibility for their actions and blame everyone else for their problems. Their lives are full of grievances, meaning they blame everyone for everything. In the other extreme, people take responsibility for other people’s actions. Actions over which they have no control. Their lives are filled with helplessness.”
“And most people are somewhere in between?” she confirmed.
“Yes,” I agreed.
“Can I have an example of the extremes?”
I considered for a moment, “I think the easiest extreme example might be an abusive relationship–one where the abuser blames the abused for the abuse, and the abused accept responsibility for the abuse.”
“Too many words starting the same way,” she shook her head. “I think you lost me again.”
“The let me try again,” I grinned. “On one side of the extreme, you get the person who has done the hitting saying things like, ‘She made me mad, and I could help myself. I had to hit her.‘ You see. The abuser blames the person that they are abusing for his or her actions.”
“Okay,” she said slowly. “So one extreme is when people blame others for their actions. When they do that they are basically relinquishing their responsibility for what they do.”
“And they are also relinquishing control over their choices.”
“When you don’t take responsibility for your own actions, you are also saying that you have no control over your own actions. ‘I had no choice. She made me do it.’ Sound familiar?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “So what is the other side of the extreme?”
“That’s when the person who was hit says something like ‘I shouldn’t have provoked him. He hates it when I do that. It was really my fault.’ Also sound familiar?”
She nodded. “So they take the blame for another person’s actions,” she concluded.
“Actions over which they have no control,” I reminded her.
“So in one extreme it’s like, ‘The world is out to get me, I have been put upon my whole life, and nothing is my fault, while the other extreme is,” she paused before starting over. “The other extreme it is harder for me to understand. Is it like, ‘The world is falling apart and it is all my fault?‘”
“I think it’s more like, ‘The world is falling apart, and I don’t know what to do,‘” I suggested. “People want to take responsibility. They want to take control, but they don’t always know where to start.”
“Hum,” she sighed. “Sounds a bit like me.” She looked up suddenly startled, “Does that mean that I am one of the extremes?”
“Nah,” I assured her. “You are definitely somewhere in the middle. You take responsibility for your actions, and you don’t assume responsibility for other people’s actions. However,” I couldn’t help but add, “you do tend to get overwhelmed by systems and situations over which you have no control and little influence. In the end, I would call you somewhat normal.”
“Somewhat normal?” she repeated.
“I think a lot of people feel that way, and that is why rule eight is so important. It helps people to focus on what they do control and therefore expands their influence.”
“So we don’t feel so overwhelmed?”
“Want to explain how it works?”
“It goes back to what I have said a million times. We only control our own thoughts, words, and actions; so that should be our main focus. We use strategy to design and plot a course for ourselves. We learn how the processes and systems work in the world we live in. We educate ourselves in order to decide our best course of action. We take action by loading the important stuff first, and try not to get distracted by other people’s priorities, or any situations that we cannot influence or control. We build our influence where we can by creating relationships with people that we trust because they also know that they can trust us.”
“In other words, we become trustworthy,” she murmured.
“Pretty good summary,” I smiled.
“Sounds easy when you say it.”
“Not easy, just the rules I have set for myself.”
“And what keeps you from falling to the dark side?” she asked, suddenly looking up.
“What makes you ask that?”
“Well it seems to me that so far every one of your rules is amoral?”
“Amoral,” I repeated surprised.
“Yeah, you know ‘lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.‘ Every one of your rules could be used by anyone, for either good or evil. Cause and effect is amoral. Belief, reflection, focus, strategy, vacuum, process, responsibility: they all could be used in moral ways, or immoral ways. That makes them amoral. So what keeps you from falling to the dark side like Darth Vader?”
“You do know that Darth Vader ended up as a glowing-good-guy-ghost in episode six after he finally decided to defend his son,” I teased.
“Shut up and answer the question,” she insisted. “What keeps you from falling to the dark side?”
I suddenly saw where she was going, and that perhaps she had been reading the rules ahead. “I suppose it is because of rule nine,” I told her.
“The Power of Contribution and Compensation,” she finished for me, confirming that she had been reading ahead.
I decided to add, “Also known as, As you sow, so shall you reap.” She looked confused, so I added again “It’s from Galatians 6:7.”
“When did you suddenly get religious?” she asked concerned.
“I’m no more religious than I have always been. Just because I have not joined a congregation and declared myself Christian, doesn’t mean that I don’t admire and follow the teachings of Christ. I adore the Sermon on the Mount, and I take Christ’s recommendation that I pray in my own closet very seriously.” I added as an afterthought, “‘According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity, and those who sow trouble, harvest it.‘ That’s from Jobs 4:8.” I winked at her. “It is basically giving the same warning.”
“That what I give, I will also receive,” she concluded.
“Did you know that many other faiths have a similar moral structure?”
“What do you mean?”
“Even the Wiccan faith warns that whatever you send out into the world will return to you threefold. Send hate and you will receive hate. Send anger, get anger back. React in violence, and people will respond violently.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Absolutely,” I said
“Why,” she asked. “Because the Bible tells you so?”
“No,” I assured her. “Because I have seen evidence of it my whole life. I know that when people spread lies, they end up in a world of lies. I know that when I turn the other cheek, my life gets better. I know that what I contribute gets compensated in ways unexpected. I know that how I view the world changes how the world views me.”
“You lost me again,” she said.
“Consider how the world views Putin, and what Putin has contributed to the world.”
I watched her eyes roll to the left as she contemplated my words. “So how does all of this relate to responsibility and control?” she asked at last.
“Ah,” I couldn’t help but smile. “Aren’t you responsible for what you contribute? Don’t you control your contributions? Or are you one of those people who blame the world for how you have been compensated?”
“But some people start out with a lot, and a lot more don’t start out with much,” she felt the need to remind me. “Lots of people don’t have much to contribute.”
“True,” I admitted. “But there is more to contribution than money. ‘According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity, and those who sow trouble, harvest it,'” I reminded her.
“What does iniquity mean again?”
“Grossly unfair behavior,” I answered.
“There is a lot of iniquity out in the world, isn’t there?”
“Yes there is,” I admitted. “There is a lot of iniquity, anger, division, and confusion.”
“So I guess that one of my responsibilities is to make sure that I am not sowing any iniquity, anger, division, or lies.”
“Absolutely, but don’t stop with what you won’t sow. You might also want to give some thought into what you want to sow. Fairness? Joy? Union? Truth? Clarity? Perhaps you should even consider sowing justice, boundaries, and accountability.”
“And how do I do that?” she asked.
“By taking responsibility for your choices,” I replied. “No matter how difficult your circumstances, you will always have the freedom to chose how you respond to your circumstances. You can turn to the dark side, or stand stubbornly in the light. In the end, it will always be your choice.”
“That’s no answer,” she retorted.
“How about this then,” I replied. “For the next week, just listen to how people talk. Listen to how often they blame others for their problems rather than looking for ways to improve their circumstances. Listen to how often they offer excuses other than solutions. Listen to how often they ask questions without bothering to look for answers. Listen to how often their solution is to blame others. Others over which they have no responsibility, influence, or control.”
“I suppose I could do that,” she said.
“The second part is harder,” I warned her.
“Listen to how often you do the same thing yourself.”
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