I remember when I was a freshman at Malone College, playing basketball. I felt God tugging on my heart for something else. I believed God was probably calling me to ministry. But it was going to upset the apple cart. I was going to make a statement when I had never been a public speaker or led anything big. On top of that, I would have to tell my coach I wouldn’t be back. People would not understand. It was a really big deal to me. So, I was standing beside my sister at the end of the church service. The pastor was giving an invitation to come to the altar and pray for God’s wisdom for whatever need we had. I was nervous. I leaned over to my sister and said, “Will you go to the altar and pray with me and ask God to tell you what I should do?”
She replied, “No, I will go with you and pray that God will tell YOU what to do.” And that’s what happened. I am so glad it did. I was being handicapped by a fear of responsibility. I didn’t want to take responsibility for my decision. What if I was wrong?
The fear of taking personal responsibility is a common fear and keeps us from growing up and becoming mature. If I hadn’t taken that first step, I would have stunted myself and never been able to actually be a leader in personal or professional ways. But that first step set me on a new path. No, not all my decisions were perfect, but they all kept me growing. Today I am able to take responsibility for decisions that would have completely paralyzed me years back.
I think that most of the time our fear of taking personal responsibility is because of two underlying fears:
- The fear of being blamed if something goes wrong. We fear the finger-pointing and assignment of blame if things don’t go as planned or hoped. For some unfathomable reason, it seems more logical to us to remain stuck in nothingness than to take the risk of making a decision and having it not be perfect. We don’t want people to view us as “the one who screwed things up.”
- The fear of criticism. Leaders always get criticized. As the old saying goes, “The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, think nothing, and do nothing.” That is a pitiful way to live. Criticism is just words. It has no power over us other than what we give it. To be something and someone worth knowing, I will absolutely have to live with criticism.
The really funny thing is, when we DON’T step out and take personal responsibility, blaming and criticizing is what we do to the others who DO take responsibility. We blame them for the decision they made if it doesn’t turn out well, and criticize the parts of it we don’t like. It leaves us underdeveloped and immature.
God promises that He will give us His strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13), and that includes taking responsibility for our lives and the decisions that are ours to make. Every decision we make through prayer, faith, and responsibility grows us. God says He takes full responsibility for a life that is fully surrendered to Him. That means if I am totally surrendered to doing what is right and best in His eyes, I don’t even need to worry about what may look like failure. He is totally committed to redeem even what looks like failure and use it for my best and my growth.
That’s the story of my life. Ever since I totally surrendered to Jesus Christ and began taking responsibility for making the best decisions I could, pulling my own weight, God has been exceedingly patient, strengthening, and redemptive with me. I have no significant regrets because God has used it all. I am where I am today, blaming no one and criticizing no one for my life. God has put amazing people in my life to help me grow and become, but the responsibility to make the call has always been mine.
I love my life. I am very satisfied with how God is leading me. To God be the glory. I want that for you.