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Great Responsibility = Great Power


“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
Epictetus

The difference between owning your life and life owning you relies on the degree of responsibility you choose to take.

Imagine you went for a walk to the park at night and suddenly you realize that a big, bad, scary-looking guy is shamelessly robbing a mother and her kid, he also has a gun. You are the only person around and the robber hasn’t noticed you yet. 

There are several options. 

You could run straight to the robber, tackle him down, take the gun from him and save the day like the hero you are. But it could also happen that the robber notices you before you’re able to tackle him and shoots you, you die as a hero, nevertheless, you die. 

Personally, I’d let the robbery happen, let the thief steal the phone and the purse, no big deal there. Then offer help to the lady and take her to the police station. A phone and a purse are nothing compared to their lives. 

You could also say that what happened was not your responsibility, but the police’s or the government’s or even the lady for not knowing better, but in saying this, you would be dead wrong. 

Because you see, it’s ALWAYS your responsibility. 

Conscious and unconscious responisbility

No, you don’t have to throw yourself to the train rails to save a screaming princess every time that happens. That’s not the point I’m trying to make. 

The point is that you are always choosing. 

You can choose not to do anything, but nevertheless, you are still choosing, you are always choosing. In choosing not to do anything, because you were scared or because you thought it was someone else’s responsibility, you still had to decide if the situation was important enough to you to do something about it and deal with the consequences of your actions.

You are not guilty or exempt from the randomness of life, but you are always responsible. You are always responsible in the sense that you exist and your actions will directly impact the development of reality itself. It doesn’t matter if you decide to do or not to do anything, you are still making a choice.

You are not exempt from having to make a decision.

The logical question then is, are you making conscious or unconscious decisions? 

Bear in mind that if you are looking to own your life you have to make conscious decisions. You have to choose -to choose-. 

If you don’t realize and claim your responsibility (your literal power), you are still going to be making choices, only that in this case, they are going to be unconscious, and you are not going to be the one making them, life is going to happen, whether you are active on it or not.

Choosing to not respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives. 

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”
Epictetus

Remember the lady from the robbery? If you decided that you weren’t going to do anything because it was the police’s responsibility, you still let your decision be made mainly by fear, the decision unconscious. But If you instead waited and offered the lady help after the robbery was over, now, this sounds much more like a conscious decision. A decision where you stopped and thought, and then decided what was the best option given the possibilities. 

This is what being responsible means. 

It means that you realize that you are not exempt from the randomness of life, but also that you aren’t exempt either from making decisions and responding to your circumstances. 

True power relies in exercising your responsibility, in choosing to deal with your problems actively, consciously and voluntarily. Do this for an hour and you’ll notice the difference, do it for a year and you’ll hardly recognize the person you’ve become. 

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I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com

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