The Ultimate Responsibility

January 11, 2009

My husband has been working on a project for quite some time now. It is a big, complex project, involving a whole team of managers (my husband being one of them) and a large group of technicians. It was a cool project, exciting and fun at first, and then everything started falling apart. As the time of completion drew nearer it became apparent that the project is not even half done. On closer look it turned out that what was done was done wrong, that the team executing it didn’t really know what they were doing. The project, slowly but surely, started turning into a nightmare. One professional after another was brought in to fix the damage and turned out to be unqualified, unable, unreliable. The budget was shrinking rapidly, the deadline was far gone and forgotten and everyday there was more anger, more frustration, more resentment and more blame. We talked about this, my husband and I, the other day. I looked into the situation trying to see what was it that seemed so unworkable. It seemed that everything was as it should be, someone was always working, at this point everyone was trying, testing, monitoring, paying attention. And yet the progress was slow and the frustration grew rapidly. And then I realized: no one involved in this project took full and total responsibility for it. Everyone was doing their job, true. Everyone was responsible for their share of work, true, but no one was responsible for the whole picture. The client expected managers to take responsibility for finishing the project, the managers expected each other (they were organized into hierarchy) to take responsibility for finishing the project, the manager closed to technicians expected them to take responsibility for finishing the project. Everyone had their share of work, their share of responsibility, their share of accountability. No one wanted the whole. And everyone was right. Everyone had good reasons. Everyone was correct to expect the other one to step up and fix the situation. Meanwhile nothing was being fixed. I said to my husband: you can take a full responsibility for this project. He said: no, why should I, this is not my job, not the agreement I made, not my responsibility. Why should I do it? Why should I pay the money for it out of my pocket? I am not the client, this is not my project, why should I be the one to take on the consequences of other people’s mistakes? I said: how do you take responsibility for something? He said: I choose to take it. I said: right! You choose to. Responsibility is not something that is trust upon you, forced upon you. You can take it or not whether it is yours to take or not, whether it makes sense or not. It is a choice. The responsibility for this project is available to anyone, anyone can take it, anyone can claim it. No one is claiming it right now, and so there is blame, make wrong, frustration, resentment. My husband was quiet for a moment, then said: I will do it. I will take responsibility for this mess. I will hire people to fix this myself, I will pay for it myself. I need this project done. As he said that everything changed: his mood, his energy, his posture. The frustration, anger and resentment were gone. There was a clear, open space, and what needed to be done became clear and obvious. Later that night other managers sprung into action, people who were not returning emails for days suddenly responded, those who washed their hands off of the project long ago declared their willingness to cover some of the losses. The dense, choking atmosphere of blame and defensiveness opened up, the anger and resentment was blown away. There was a space now that wasn’t there before, an open space for action, for completion. A space for everyone to take responsibility, a space for everyone to be present. The situation shifted completely, the reality changed completely. One person took full responsibility – and the reality changed for everyone involved. One person chose to take responsibility and the space opened for everyone to do the same. He didn’t have to be responsible, he was right not to be, he would loose money by taking the responsibility, it didn’t make any sense for him to take it, and yet he did. Because that was his choice. He chose to be fully responsible with no considerations for safety, logic, right and wrong. The considerations of mind, the defensive orientation, was not a factor here. There was only the choice, and reality changed completely. I was sitting on a couch reading a book just a moment ago. The story of my husband was hovering nearby, I was going to write it out later today. In my book two people were talking about religion, faith, Christianity. One of them said: “But none of us could raise a human being from the dead, or promise truly to raise all men; and none of us can forgive sins, or wipe the stain of wrong away” and I realized suddenly – this is not what happened! This is not what Christ did! He did not “die for our sins” to erase them and make us all blameless and forgiven. He took responsibility for humanity’s sins and, by doing it, he opened a space for everyone else to take it. He made a choice to be fully responsible for everyone and everything – and reality changed completely. My husband took full responsibility for a situation with no consideration for it making sense or not, being right or not, being just or not, being safe or not. He accepted the consequences. He made a choice and the reality changed for everyone involved. Christ took responsibility for the whole reality with no consideration for it making sense, being right or not, being just or not, being safe or not. He accepted the consequences. He made a choice and the reality changed for everyone. What does it mean to be God? It doesn’t mean to be able to have everything one wants or to do magic tricks. It doesn’t mean floating in eternal nirvana or having a nice mansion in paradise. It means creating reality by taking responsibility for it, the whole of it, all of it. Fully and completely, without consideration.

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