“You are not only responsible for what you say, but for also what you do not say”
– Martin Luther
Edmund, in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a particular fondness for the sweet Turkish Delight. If you have never had any you should try some. The experience will make the premise in the book, that the gift of the enchanted Turkish Delight from the White Witch would be enough to cause Edmund to betray all he loves, quite believable.
Turkish Delight (the unenchanted kind) would be enough to make you forget many thing. Traditionally it is made from molasses or honey with dates, sometimes rosewater (giving it a pink color and subtle flavor) and all bound together with flour and water and dusted with icing sugar or cream of tartar. It is…a diabetic fit waiting to happen and goes well with strong, minted tea.
Turkish Delight has become synonymous with indulgence of the kind that makes you seek more and forget the path you are on. It is…addictive. And the base part of addiction is that there is a choice to seek the substance for a repetition of the experience of being released from the reality of the present over the choice to live through the present. That holds true whether we are talking about psychological or physiological addictions, no matter what the type there is an element of choice involved. Even in the recovery from a deeply chemical or biological addiction, the person must choose to stay with the treatment in order to overcome the addiction. I won’t go into psychological addictions here, the blog isn’t big enough for that soap box today but suffice it to say that choice plays a huge role.
One of the key elements of choice is responsibility. And that is what makes it so hard for many to make choices (as part of a process of change) and to stick with them. We have come to understand responsibility only as an “after effect.” We understand it through the consequences or results of the choice and not from the stand point of where the point of responsibility actually begins.
Responsibility begins when you identify the options to choose from, or even sooner, when you begin to identify that there is a problem that needs to be resolved.
If you are aware of a problem and do not pursue finding out different choices and options available, then you are behaving irresponsibly.
Now, we are used to “responsible” or “responsibility” as being defined as:
1. Liable to be required to give account, as of one’s actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust.
2. Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority: a responsible position within the firm.
3. Able to be trusted or depended upon; reliable.
4. Based on or characterized by good judgment or sound thinking: responsible journalism.
5. Having the means to pay debts or fulfill obligations.
6. Required to render account; answerable: The cabinet is responsible to the parliament.
Those are all definitions that deal with consequences or the projection of consequences. They are “after the fact” understandings of responsibility.
But there are two other definitions of responsibility that have been slowly forgotten. And these are:
1. Being a source or cause.
2. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one’s own and therefore answerable for one’s behavior.
We generally understand the first one, being a source or a cause, when we use the term “responsible” to blame someone. But that is not what that definition is about. Being responsible means that you choose to be the beginning – and hopefully of good things.
Like the second definition, although it eventually leads to consequence, the responsibility begins in the acknowledgement that you are the agent of decision.
Once you decide then you begin to move up the ladder of definition.
Back to the whole idea of humor and slurs, I have had a small discussion going in the comments on one the blog sites and it has been pointed out that people back away from responsibility by using the catch phrases:
I didn’t mean it that way.
I was trying to be funny.
now, not included in that list are the phrases,
in my opinion…
because those are statements of ownership and decision. So why (side step) would I have included the phrase “I feel” in the group that evades responsibility?
Because knowledge of what you feel is personal and intimate to you, it is a purely subjective interpretation of an event. When you base the majority of your communication, especially in a personal relationship on statements that begin “I feel” you are putting your subjective opinions out without the balance of the objective.
Being responsible means you are also being objective. Responsibility implies you are taking into consideration the potential effects of your actions and choices.
And, FYI, words are actions and choices.
Subjective statements allow for only one of three responses – the person can choose not to engage at all (because they recognize that what you are saying has nothing to do with them), they can acknowledge what you have said (and immediately be embroiled in your personal emotional state ending discussion) or three, they can go on the defensive, their own subjective selves rising up to defend their interior world.
Humor is subjective.
Especially sarcasm. Sarcasm is a type of humor I do not recommend anyone use unless you have a long and deep history with your audience. Sarcasms base lies in the emotional attack because it is a way of making fun of someone’s meaning, being and purpose. Part of the definition of sarcasm is that “it is a cutting or ironic remark intended to wound.”
I really do not believe that Sarcasm is humor at all. I think it is a form of communicative art, like parody or caricature, not to be practiced by the unpracticed.
Sarcasm is also a huge defensive mechanism for people with low self-esteem because not only does it prevent any one from getting close, but it is a means of “cutting people down to size.”
We have gone around and around in the blog about the fact that a part of maturity is recognizing that just because you feel it or think it doesn’t mean it needs to be said. There has been a sort of …self-help snafu in which for a while everyone was encouraged to discuss their feelings irregardless of the recognition of their potential impact on others, to discuss feelings irresponsibly. Because you are responsible for what you begin and if you say something that hurts and offends someone, ten to one, if you had thought about it (and the timing and the circumstances) you would have recognized the potential. Part of being in relationship to others is recognizing that there are boundaries to how much of you can take over the relationship and when. To demand that you be heard when ever the spirit moves you or, without having to face the consequence of what your expression began is to function outside of a relationship. In denial of it.
What we think and what we feel is very important and very valid in all situations. However, its primary importance and value is to us, individually. When we turn outward to the others involved in the relationship you have to engage in a process in which you decide (choose) what is important to you in the relationship (shall it continue? do you want it to grow? is it negotiation? are you at a point where you need to repair the relationship? compromise? or are you at the point where your Self is more important then the continuation of the relationship?). All of those are valid and reasonable questions to answer. All relationships have different answers to those questions at any given time because relationships are dynamic and not static. They change.
What we see echoed in the behavior of our politicians and our celebrities are behaviors that we ourselves have endorsed and encouraged. What we elect and support after all is a mirror of who we are.
As Martin Luther says, we are not only responsible for what we say, but what we do not say.
Living life, negotiating relationships, acting with emotional maturity and a sense of harmony and balance is work. Constant work, but the rewards are infinite. An immediate one is that you do not have to sit around wasting your time trying to disentagle misunderstandings and repairing relationships that would ot have been damaged if…
both parties acted responsibly for their choices because they recognize the potential for what their choices could begin.
My blog post prior to this one got censored in a fair amount of RSS feeds because of the language used in it. You will have to go and actually read “raghead” as I don’t think it will be passed through.
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