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Reclaiming The Lost Art of Personal Responsibility

In a culture that convinces us to fight against our own maturity, we can easily miss out on the freedom offered by personal responsibility. Maturity and responsibility come from experiencing love, not fear. Freedom is a gift of love.

Childish is only cute when we're children. Childish immaturity after the age of 12 is anything but freedom.

Fear tricks us into singing the 999th version of "I don't want to grow up." Complaining provides the same old tune and blaming is the all too familiar chorus.

Love teaches us a new song. Responsibility is the melody and freedom is the refrain. Our world can use this new song.

Instead of caving into the empty promises of fear, I'm offering you five guidelines for reclaiming the art of personal responsibility that I'm learning the hard way. Easy, I've discovered, is often overrated.

Just like weight training builds strength, the hard way is the trusting road to maturity. I'm still on the journey. Together, there is great hope.

1. I am responsible for building trust in my relationships.

Building trust only happens in a culture of love and in transformational relationships. In transformational relationships, I get because I need, not because I deserve or demand.

Love is a process of meeting needs.

In transactional relationships, I get because I earn. In transactional relationships, I can build a good reputation—worthy of respect. I can even build a life of integrity.

But only in personal relationships where I see your real needs and meet them in the ways that I can, and where I let you see my real needs and meet them in the way that you can--this is how trust gets built.

We learn to notice and care about the needs of others when we live in a culture where others notice and care about our needs. This is how we learn to love one another.

Trust gets built by experiencing each other’s love, not simply recognizing each other’s goodness.

2. I am responsible for resolving my own emotions.

Asking you to resolve my emotions is like demanding that you resolve my stomach ache. It's not possible.

We can only learn to resolve our unpleasant emotions in a culture of love.

In a culture of fear, we can learn to use our emotions to manipulate others to get what we need or what we want.

We're designed to experience unconditional love in all the ways this love meets our real needs. This may be our personal true story in our life as an infant.

But if those caring for us as toddlers and young children start requiring us to earn and deserve, we can get confused about how to navigate relationships.

"If you pick up all your toys, you can play a game on my phone."

"If your big girl panties stay dry, you can have ice cream before bed."

"If you don't get in trouble at preschool, I'll read you a story at bedtime."

Immaturity prevents young children from earning and deserving with any real predictability, so children can learn to rely heavily on demanding and manipulating.

Emotions are primitive tools, but we soon realize we can command others with our emotions better than we can deserve what we want. Pitching a fit often puts us in control.

A culture of fear can be recognized as the place where the people with the least maturity are often in charge of what happens next. In a culture of fear, we’ve traded influence for manipulation.

In a culture of love, we learn that the people who love us sincerely will meet our needs and because they love us, they'll teach us what we don't need, too.

"No" is one of the most important words in a culture of love. "No" is spoken often, mostly to protect immature ones from bondage.

As a child, I learn who I am. I learn I'm created to trust love.

I experience the love that meets my needs, including the need to build emotional fluency. Frustration and disappointment are real experiences. Pain is real, too.

Love teaches me to resolve my emotions instead of hanging onto them--especially the unpleasant ones.

Because I'm learning to complete a stress-response cycle with love, I begin to notice when I am at peace and how that's different from feeling like I'm at war with myself and others.

I learn to ask for help from someone I trust.

I'm able to respond to the help love offers because I know who I am, not just because I’m trying to earn or deserve and not because I’m trying to control you with my emotions.

A culture of fear is always self-serving. In a culture of love, we are all served.

3. I am responsible for participating in my own healing.

In this world, there will be trouble. We'll all get wounded. In our wounding, we often get confused. Pain always lies.

When others are the source of our pain, we feel we have every right to demand they live in misery and fear and shame. Forever.

We feel we have every right to devalue those who hurt us.

We ignore their whole person and the gifts they bring to the table at the same time they bring their failures. They don’t get to have strengths anymore. Their failures are now their identity.

We have a myopic focus on other’s moral failings when we have a myopic focus on our own—unless we have trusted the bigness of our own trouble and the power of forgiveness.

We're convinced that others are losers because, in some way, we feel like a loser. And because we're convinced that winning is a real need.

Winning isn't a real need. Justice is a real need.

Without healing, fear convinces us that our view of justice is just. Without healing, our version of justice will serve us and devalue others.

We'll have a view that manipulates and shames for our own personal gain or to balance the scales without forgiveness.

Justice is never finished without forgiveness. Without forgiveness, someone is always getting hurt. Someone is always in bondage.

We'll know when we have a biased view of justice. Our views will be inconsistent. We'll fight for the right to save puppies while rejecting the responsibility to keep babies alive. We'll yell the loudest at the cheaters on the baseball fields while we’re justifying all the ways we cheat on our spouses or our children or ourselves.

We'll use shame to make people afraid in a way that's a salve to our own pain or in a way that puts us in control of the story. Even each other's story. Fear and shame are the primary distorters of justice.

Grace changes everything. Wrath doesn't heal. I'm reminded of the scene in Les Misérables--a free man granting freedom to a thief.

Free people free people. That's justice. That's the Gospel.

4. I am responsible for participating in my own maturity.

We all need to mature, not just get better at our work or the games we play. To be responsible is to be a person, not just a prize winner.

Maturity is about growing up, not simply getting better at what earns me what I want.

Maturity is about sorting through what I need and what I want. It’s about admitting what I think I need may really be just a pain killer or a shame salve.

Maturity means I’m learning the value of pushing through what’s uncomfortable to land in a place that makes it possible for me to live free and be trusted—not simply comfortable.

When we are mature, we've learned to live in a way that fear is our servant, not our master.

When our eye is only on the prize, we lose sight of the people in the story and we lose sight of ourselves and all the ways our woundings and immaturity get in the way of living life without fear.

No one has ever been feared to wholeness. Love is the prelude, the symphony, and the encore of wholeness.

Search for wholeness. Look for people who live life fully alive whose emotions are a great servant, but not their master. Learn from them.

Maturity is the fruit of being loved. Our part is trusting love to be our guide.

5. I am responsible for setting boundaries in personal relationships.

I don’t have to stay in a relationship with anyone that hurts me. Not with a person, not with a church, not in a friendship, and not in a marriage. Neither do you.

Find a local phone number for a crisis hotline. Call the police. Call a friend you trust.

Vulnerable is only beautiful when we're protected by someone more mature than we are--who loves us.

You'll need the strength of another to help you set boundaries. God will help you, too.

He will be your strength. Just ask Harriet Tubman.

When Scripture reminds us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we're given permission to love ourselves. Love protects what it loves. You are worthy of protection.

If someone tries to convince you that you have to stay in a relationship that's painful because they're hurting you to meet their own needs, they're trying to convince you it’s ok for you to be a slave. If I hurt you to meet my own needs, that’s abuse.

You were created to experience freedom. Me, too. We were made to be loved and to love one another.

Love builds fences and keeps them in good condition. Fences are boundaries. What's inside the fence gets to live in the freedom love offers. Anything that tries to take away that freedom has to stay out.

Sometimes love nudges us to say, "Move some fences."

If what's inside your story isn't protecting you, it's not love. If someone in your story tells you you're not allowed to have boundaries, they don't know the truth about love.

Building fences is hard work and it's the only way to live in real freedom. Love's freedom allows us to do anything that's good for us, including move some fences.

Love always offers us freedom.

Freedom comes with incredible privileges and significant responsibilities. Love gives us the wisdom and strength we need for both.

When we look at problems the way a culture of fear has taught us to look at problems, the problems continue. Sometimes the problems grow bigger.

We can take responsibility and learn to look at problems differently. We can risk asking ourselves, "What would happen to this problem in a culture of love?"

If you're interested in discovering more about the power of love, my husband Doug and I recorded a LOVE IS FEARLESS podcast episode with the same title as this blog post--publishing on March 4, 2020.

You can find all of our LOVE IS FEARLESS episodes on your favorite podcast provider or on our LOVE IS FEARLESS website.

Together, there is great hope.


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