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Accepting Appropriate Responsibility

Driving up into the mountains to gather firewood for his family, a man realized that his new truck was stuck in the snow after he stopped at a potential site to find firewood. He tried to get it out, but the tires just spun. Knowing that someone would come looking for him if he didn’t get back soon, he decided to get the firewood ready and wait for them.

Mountain Cabin

He filled his truck with the firewood. As he waited, he decided to try again to see if he could get the truck out. This time, the truck moved easily out of the snow. The extra weight he had put in the truck gave it enough traction to move.

In our personal lives, responsibility is like the weight of the firewood. If we take on appropriate amounts of responsibility, it gives us traction to move, to accomplish, and to achieve. If we take on too much responsibility though, we start to break down, just as a truck would break if its load was too heavy to carry.

The Utah Legislature starts in session soon. I have been involved at the Utah Legislature for a number of years now, and have watched as many citizens approach a number of issues with a high degree of energy, resolve, or passion. They work zealously on causes or issues that concern them, but then I see a high degree of burnout on those that try to make a difference politically. I have experienced the burnout myself, and I have had years where I didn’t do my part. Neither one is an optimal place to be.

I have learned that when we take on responsibility that is not ours, we burn out, we get overloaded, and we lose energy. Likewise, when we refuse to accept responsibility that is ours to accept, we stop moving, stop progressing, and start blaming others for our problems. We are, figuratively, stuck in the snow, and the way to start moving again is to take appropriate responsibility for that which is ours to be responsible for.

This year in Believe, we are focusing on the concept of “Be the One”. There are chances to help all around us, and we each have something that we can contribute to those in need. We don’t have to focus on all of the problems in the world, as they are not all our responsibility, but we can focus on those within our sphere of influence.

To review whether we are taking on too much or too little responsibility, we can ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Am I the decision-maker that can control the outcome?

o If yes, am I taking responsibility and deciding appropriately?

o If no, am I blaming myself if the outcome is bad or undesirable? (Blaming ourselves for something we can’t control is a sign we have taken on responsibility that is not ours)

  • Have I done what I have the gifts, talents, knowledge, means, or power to do?

o If yes, am I trusting that the rest will work out? (If not, we may be taking on responsibility that is not ours)

o If no, am I willing to do what I can?

  • Have I done the small things that are within my power?

o If yes, am I at peace? (If there is no peace, we may be taking on responsibility that is not ours, or there may be some small things left that we haven’t done)

o If no, do I need more faith that the small things (such as a hug or kind note) matter?

  • Do I feel that the issue is someone else’s problem to solve?

o If yes, am I being honest that I have no ability to do anything in any way?

o If no, am I being honest that others may play a part?

o If I see it as both my problem and another person’s problem, am I willing to do my part before expecting others to do theirs?

While these questions certainly are not exhaustive or applicable to every situation, they help when evaluating whether we are doing what we can, and should, in a situation.

Proper balance is a good thing. We do not have to burn ourselves out taking on problems and responsibilities that are not ours, but we shouldn’t believe that there is nothing we can do. In most situations, we do not control the outcome, but we do have something we can say, contribute, do, or otherwise play a part in to help insert good into the equation.

In other words, while we do not control the outcome of most things in life, we do have power over what we put into the mix. When we add the good we have into the mix, we have the traction we need to move forward in life, and we will often be surprised at the good that can come from our efforts, no matter how small.


At Believe, we are working to build a community of people who are willing to “Be the One” and help find solutions to the issues of our day. We would love to have you join us. The world may never be the same.

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