There is an old story: Two monks are walking along a road and come to a large stream. A beautiful young woman is standing by the stream trying to cross. She asks for assistance. The monks have given vows of chastity in which they have declared they will not touch a woman or lust after the pleasures of the flesh. But one monk agrees to carry the woman across as an act of charity and he takes her to the other stream bank. As they continue along the road, the second monk is outraged and continues to lecture the first monk about breaking his vows. The first monk replies, “I only carried her across the stream but you’re still carrying her.”
The second monk had a strong story in his mind about who a monk should be and what he should be doing. He was unwilling to let go of that limitation in order to look more deeply at what was the most open-hearted response in that situation. If we look within ourselves, we may see this same energy. We carry our stories, sometimes from far in the past, and what we believe is comforting and protective becomes a heavy burden to carry which prevents us from easily moving forward in our lives and being the Truth of who we are.
Sometimes, we use stories to justify our own actions and excuse ourselves from responsibility. We might fall into a pattern of explaining ourselves with something like, “I’ve always been this way ever since that certain experience happened to me.” Other times, we may use stories to justify our behavior toward others as in, “If I’d only known she was going through that, then I would have been more understanding.” Though it is often subconsciously done, we may allow those stories to direct our behavior rather than going within for guidance on how to respond with love. The good news is that we can choose to become conscious of those stories and choose to free ourselves by letting them go. We do not have to be the same person we were several years ago or even several minutes. We don’t have to let our stories define us.
A friend once shared with me that she attended a workshop on taking responsibility for your actions and the facilitator made the following point: If you find yourself in a situation such as arriving late for a meeting with someone and saying things like, “I’m late because I got stuck behind a slow driver,” or “Traffic was really bad,” then become aware of how this shifts responsibility away from you and justifies your choices using a story. The facilitator suggested saying something like, “I apologize for keeping you waiting, I didn’t allow enough travel time this morning.” This is ownership of responsibility and also puts the power back in your hands for your actions. You are not at the effect of anyone or anything, even your own self-justifications.
Many people confuse taking responsibility with self-blame. Often, when we try to take responsibility for our actions, we end up berating ourselves for not doing it differently, not knowing better, etc. This is not responsibility but self-recrimination, guilt and shame. Divine Responsibility is simply the ability to respond, to be fully present and aware in every situation and to listen within for the response that serves the highest good. You don’t need to hear anyone else’s back story or declare your own in order to hear your inner wisdom on how to be a loving and compassionate being in each moment.