Authentic Responsibility #3: I have the responsibility to choose whether I offer help for other people’s problems. I make my own commitments; no one can obligate me to that which I’m not committed.
Some time ago, I found myself entangled in a situation between two of my friends, John and Julie. John was showing some erratic and crazy behavior towards Julie, which frightened Julie. A close friend of John’s confided the situation to me, and somehow, the pushy prophet girl ended up in the middle. Because I knew John’s parents, I contacted them for my close friend and met with them about the situation. I also talked to Julie about what was going on. I mediated an e-mail chain between parents and Julie. And then, after a misunderstanding, I received a nasty voicemail from John’s mother. While listening to the voicemail, I realized something: I somehow had gotten myself involved in a situation, and I no longer wanted to be involved in it. And while I was concerned for the parties involved, I called my close friend and told him I was done: I stepped back and removed myself from the situation completely. I never should have been involved in the first place.
Authentic responsibility #3 gives you the responsibility of choosing where to offer your help and place your commitments–no one else can make these decisions for you. Here are three things to remember when choosing your obligations:
- Have clear boundaries. In my situation with John and Julie, I did not express clear boundaries from the beginning. My involvement should have ended with giving my close friend the contact information for John’s parents and praying for the situation. Instead, I took on more roles that eventually got muddled and angered everyone, including me. Clear boundaries would have prevented this. You may not know where the situation is heading, but you can prepare yourself for where you will go from the outset (Galatians 6:5).
- Stand by your commitments. This is a simple mandate from the Bible in James 5:12, which says, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” In my situation, I did not do this. I said I would help but then backed out when I realized I really did not want to be involved. Jesus told a parable of a son who said he would show up to work in his father’s vineyard but then didn’t, and another son who said he wouldn’t show up to work, but then did. If you must choose, be the son who says he isn’t going to help, but then does—this was the son who pleased his Father (Matthew 21:28-31).
- Let go of the guilt. You can’t help or save everyone—and you aren’t called to. That is Jesus’ job. Pray about where God is asking you to spend your time. While the Bible mandates that we help others and show others compassion, we are also to be good stewards of our time. You must release any feelings of guilt you have on your own or that others may attempt to press on you. Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)—it is okay to say no!
Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Authentic responsibilities help us take care of ourselves and our interests so that we can better take care of others. It is your responsibility to decide where your obligations lie.
How do you decide where you will commit yourself and your time? Share in the comments!