Taking the right responsibility: A gift of kintsugi gold

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Kintsugi (kintsukuroi) fuchsia and black jasper stone heart pendant with gold repair on black cotton cord

This post of part of a series on the subtle gifts of kintsugi gold. In this series, I am sharing some of the gifts I have discovered in the gold of my own healing in the hopes that it will help others identify the quiet gifts available to them. All people are different, however, and all forms of brokenness and healing are likewise unique, so my experience may or may not resemble yours. I hope it can still be a starting point for searching for and discovering your own gifts hidden in your healed scars.

A key part of growing up is learning to take responsibility.

As we mature from childhood to adulthood, we gradually learn to take responsibility for our things, for our actions, for our decisions, for our finances, for our time.

And so, at least on the outside, we look we have mastered this thing called responsibility and are fully-functional adults.

Yet many of us have missed a vital aspect of taking responsibility because we've taught to take responsibility for the wrong things when it comes to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

The missing piece

Even as we are learning about responsibility as we grow, we are also learning about relationships: how to be in them, how to care for them, how important they are.

In the process of curbing our own natural self-centeredness, we learn to focus on others, which is good and healthy. But most of us learn to take that a little bit too far.

We start to believe that we are responsible for the happiness and health of those around us (particularly those closest to us) and that they are responsible for our happiness.

On the surface, that sounds altruistic. Don't we want those we care about to be happy? Shouldn't we want to do everything we can to make them happy? Shouldn't we care more about their happiness than our own?

But it's actually a slow poison to relationships.

In the guise of trying to be responsible for another's happiness, we inevitably begin trying to manipulate and control them. It's the only way it's possible to take responsibility for another.

We also begin contorting and distorting ourselves in an attempt to make ourselves into what we believe will make the other person happy.

All while laying the immense (and impossible) burden on them to provide our happiness.

It sets everyone up for failure because happiness comes from the inside out.

We are each responsible for our own happiness and no one else's because the only person we have responsibility for when it comes to our inner life is ourselves.

A lesson about buckets

I kept butting my head against this misunderstanding for years until my world fell apart.

In the aftermath of that collapse, I was gradually forced to take full responsibility (for the first time) for my own life.

As I floundered about in the ruins, I realized that I was the only person available to take responsibility for healing from the brokenness I was facing. No one else could do it (as much as I wanted them to).

This hard truth really hit home for me when I heard a lesson about buckets. There are always three buckets: those things we are responsible for, the things that others are responsible for, and the things that are only the responsibility of the Divine (or God or the Universe or whatever other name you choose).

The key is learning to know what belongs in each bucket and only taking up responsibility for what's in our own bucket.

As I began taking responsibility for my own healing during those dark days, one of the first things I had to tackle was sorting things into the right buckets because I realized that my mis-sorting of these buckets had played a key role in creating the brokenness I was facing.

As I stopped trying to take responsibility for everyone else's health and happiness, I realized just how much I had used my attempts to take responsibility for others to avoid taking responsibility for myself. (After all, it's so much easier to obsess about what someone else "should" be doing with their life than to do the work to get my own life in order.)

I also realized just how much damage I had done to so many of my relationships with the attempts at control this false responsibility has spurred.

Most of all, I realized that taking responsibility for my own healing meant taking responsibility for my thoughts, for my beliefs, for the stories I told myself, and for my emotions ... including my own happiness.

It was the only way out of the hole I was in. No one else was going to do it for me.

The right responsibility

I'm still mastering the skill of taking the right responsibility for my own life, but here's some of what it looks like for me.

It means taking responsibility for being kind, loving, and helpful in my relationships without taking on any responsibility for the other person's actions, choices, feelings, or responses to me.

It means choosing (over and over again) to stop making my happiness dependent on what someone else does (or thinks or says), on any success (or lack of it) I may have, on any possession I do or don't have, on any relationship I do or don't have, on any achievement or goal I may be working toward.

It means choosing to address my own issues as they arise to move toward healing, no matter what anyone else thinks about my path toward healing.

It means choosing what stories I tell myself—about my past, about my future, about my identity, about others—to select those that help me grow instead of those that keep me stuck waiting for someone or something else.

It means refusing to contort myself into someone I'm not in attempt to control someone else's opinion of me. And it means refusing to expect the same from them.

It's been a journey that's required every gift we've covered so far as it has stretched me and forced me to grow.

It's also brought more happiness my way than I would have ever imagined possible because I'm finally depending on the only person who truly has any responsibility for it.

And I never would have made that discovery without finding myself in pit of brokenness that I could only climb out of by taking responsibility for the climb.

That's what makes it a gift of kintsugi gold.

For reflection

How often do you find yourself trying to take responsibility for the happiness of others? What impact does that have on your relationships?

How often do you find yourself waiting for someone else to do (or say) something before you can be happy? How often do you find yourself waiting for something to happen (some milestone, achievement or goal) before you can be happy?

How is giving away this responsibility for your own happiness working for you?

What might it look like to take more responsibility for your own happiness and emotional health? What would be different in your life if you did that?


Other posts in this series


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