Personal Responsibility

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on May 23, 2013 4:28 pm

“Personal responsibility is the willingness to completely accept choices that we have made throughout our lives.”
                                                                                    ~ Asa Don Brown, Waiting to Live

Personal responsibility is the ability and willingness to accept our past, whether good or bad as a marker within our history.  It is also recognizing that our history does not have to define us or be the determining factor of our lives.


Responsibility is not identifying with our past failures or successes.  Nor is it allowing others to place the past upon our person.  Responsibility cannot be the acceptance of other’s failures or successes.  We may have all had a moment in time, whereby we slough off personal responsibility, transfer personal responsibility or blame others for our failures or the successes in our lives.   Personal responsibility is not the denial of our successes or of our failures, rather it is the willingness to take ownership of our personal history.  


Personal responsibility is the willingness to accept that we are capable of taking power over the deeds, actions, reactions, and the general conduct of our life.  We are acknowledging that we have been at the helm of our life; guiding our personhood down the sometimes turbulent and rocky shores.  Moreover, it is the willingness to accept our achievements, our successes, our failures, and the course of our lives.   

When we are accepting responsibility, we are acknowledging that “we” have had a role in this game called life. While personal responsibility is the acknowledgement and acceptance of our role, we should never allow for our roles in life to become our identity.  For the roles we have in life, whether good or bad are mere historical markers, and nothing more.


Our identity is not the jobs we have obtained, the degrees we have achieved, the titles that have encompassed our lives, or the accolades that have been bestowed upon us.  Moreover, our identity should never include the disputes, arguments, disagreements, wrongs, crimes, or the undesirable deeds we have committed in this life.  We may have been caught in the web of a legal wrangling, but the truth is our person is grander and more majestic than our mere failures and successes. 

Let’s consider the following:  If-and-only-if, your identity is cloaked with the successes of this life, then-and-only-then, can you have an identity if you have chosen to succeed.  Likewise, if your identity is encapsulated with the negativity of this life, then you will be forced to wear the merits of negative deeds throughout the remainder of your life.  Similarly, if your identity is the embodiment of the negative and the positive choices you have made in this life, then you are forced to constantly live your life in the past. 

What if, a police officer or fire fighter is medically forced to resign?  Are they forced to only see themselves as they once where?  If so, then their lives will be forced to live in the preordained past.  What if, a physician is no longer capable of practicing medicine?  Should this individual dispose of his or her shingle calling for an abrupt stop on life?

Is this individual no longer capable of being a player within this life unworthy of being a member of this life? What if, a teacher develops Alzheimer’s?  Are they no longer capable of being a contributor to those around them?

Who we are is much grander and more majestic than what we have accomplished.  Who we are should have nothing to do with our career paths or job titles, academic or life achievements, or how many friends or enemies we have made in this life. 

If life was solely based on academic accolades or career achievements, then why did the positive mindset of Anne Frank touch so many? Arguably, Ms. Frank was a victim of a most egregious war, but her training and skill had yet to be developed.  Who we are has nothing to do with what we have achieved or failed at in this life.  For who we are is much deeper than those deeds, actions, reactions, and merits that have been bestowed upon us. 


Who we are is much deeper than we most commonly accept ourselves to be.  Have you ever heard another say, “if you only knew (person), then you would not make such a claim”?  What are we essentially saying is;  who we are is much deeper than the outer appearance or known interactions, which is frequently conveyed as our personhood.  What if, a person’s physical beauty or athletic capability is whisked away?  Then what, are they no longer capable of being a contributor in this life?  Consider the life of Christopher Reeves; the once prominent actor and Hollywood Star, was suddenly and tragically injured as he displayed his amazing equestrian skills.  He did not allow his injuries resulting in full body paralysis to be the demise of his person.  Rather, Mr. Reeves choose to make a much deeper impact on the world.  It was through Mr. Reeves desire to prove resilient that the profoundness of his personhood was felt.  There is little room for doubt that he had clear intentions on living a life beyond his physical capabilities.

Who we are… is an internal being; whether you are a person of faith or not, there is little room for doubt, that when our heart pumps for the very last time, that our physical being is ultimately gone.  For who we are has nothing to do with the outer shell that we encompass.

Author:   Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.




Mayo Clinic (2013) Friendships:  Enrich your life and improve your health.  Retrieved April 27, 2013 from


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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