Not Guilty

re·spon·si·ble: liable to be called on to answer; liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent; being the cause or explanation

It means taking things on as my own that were never meant for me to take on. It is the false belief that I, myself, am the cause or explanation for the bad, uncomfortable, or dissatisfied people or circumstances around me. Likewise, it also means that I feel the need to prevent the bad, uncomfortable, or dissatisfactory circumstances from happening in the first place.  

(From Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman)

When my brother was, ummm, I don't know...very small...five? maybe six? Putting me in the eleven or twelve year old range, anyway, we were all young.  My mom took us all to the park, and at some point in time when my brother and I were in the same area of the park (I don't remember if we were playing together), he was climbing something and slipped. He fell and instead of his hands catching him, his face smacked into the ground and his bottom teeth went right through his lip.  As all mouth injuries do this bled spectacularly and between the very real pain and fear there was a great deal of screaming and crying,  a flurry of sibling gathering and eventually we all wound up at the pediatrician's office where the doctor calmly told my mom that this is a very common injury in children and that it would heal up beautifully all on its own.  At least, that's what she told me Dr. Mallard told her because I didn't go inside. I waited in the car.  I don't know how long it took them inside the office I only remember feeling so weighed down with guilt and responsibility and remorse that I had somehow not been where I should have or done what I should have and my brother was now injured as a result, that I couldn't even go inside and face other people, let alone our doctor.

Now let me be perfectly clear, at no point was I charged with the well-being of my brother on this trip. At no point did my mother yell at me, rebuke me or in any way say anything that laid the responsibility for this incident on me.  I took this responsibility for it all on my own, and the weight of it was such that I still feel little sick thinking of it today.

You can see then why this quote kind of felt like a slap in the face today. Taking responsibility for something that is not mine is something I have never entirely outgrown. I take people's discontent, their anger, their needs, their expectations and I make them into something for which I am responsible, and then, I have to fix it.

The problem is that this world is filled, simply filled with broken people, and I am not even remotely responsibly for almost any part of that brokenness (unfortunately, I cannot claim complete amnesty since I both inadvertently, and occasionally even intentionally do hurt people - how's that for a brutal level of transparency), and yet, I will often step in and try to fix it. I will ponder and dwell and fret and fume for hours and days over problems that I neither created nor can I solve.

I have slowly learned that there are certain types of people with whom this compulsory guilt is nearly toxic. They have a need that must be filled, and I have an almost obsessive drive to be whatever, do whatever, change whatever will make that need less.  It's can become a nasty cycle that drains me of the ability to focus on anything else but filling that need. I realize that this behavior is placing myself in the position of an idol in a persons life, and that, is not at all a healthy, desirable place to be for anyone in the relationship.

I can't be what people need, not on a fundamental level. I can be a friend, a support, a help, an honest word, an encourager, but I can't be the thing that fills up the broken spaces. Only God can be that kind of supplier. What I have found is that this inevitably makes some people, very angry and upset at me, and yet the only resolution is to continue to leave space for God to work, to not fix it, fill it or own it.

I have to let it go.
It seems a very irresponsible stance, and yet letting it go is the only way for any person trapped in the cycle, to be free.


Lorri said...

Oh how I understand this!

Madame Rubies said...

This post reminds me of when a friend was going through a very dirty divorce a few years back. Corey had to put his foot down and make me back up and quit feeling responsible for everything wrong in said friend's life. It is one thing to bear each other's burdens and another to obsessively try to fix them.

Love you!

Cheri said...

Ah, just...exactly...what...I...needed. thank you.

Tish said...

Well said! I so needed this reminder!

Maria said...

What is it about first-born children? Every "me too" commenter, of which I am one, which I know anything about is a first born.