Authentic Responsibilities #7: As a human being, I will sometimes act in a way that has unforeseen negative consequences for another. I am responsible for my own contributing to those consequences without requiring myself to have had prior knowledge I didn’t have.
I went down to visit my friend’s office while at work. We’ve been friends for a while, and she knows just about everything there is to know about me—including my struggles and my past addiction to pornography. As she was taking a phone call, she pulled up a Twitter feed and said, “Look at this!” I glanced but saw nothing out of the ordinary—just a random student’s profile. When I didn’t react, she said, “Did you see this?” As she pointed at the picture at the top of the profile, I again saw nothing. Then she pointed out the extremely pornographic nature of the picture on this teenager’s profile, and finally, it registered with me. I turned my head away as quickly as I could and then asked her, “Knowing what you know about me, is there a reason you felt you should show that to me?” She immediately felt regret and apologized profusely. I was upset initially, but I let it go very quickly—I know she didn’t do it on purpose and would never intentionally harm my recovery in this area! I asked her to consider my past struggles when showing me things in the future.
Authentic responsibility #7 says that sometimes we do things that have unintentional and unknown consequences for another person. Here are a few things to remember about this responsibility:
- Own it. All actions have consequences. Some consequences are positive, some are negative, some are neutral. We are responsible for owning up to those things that negatively impact others. My friend immediately realized what she had done and apologized. When your actions unintentionally cause someone harm, the first and best thing you can do is to admit your mistake and apologize. You don’t have to post-script it with an, “I didn’t know”—just own your mistake.
- Drop the guilt. Even if my friend wouldn’t have known about my pornography addiction, she might have felt guilty about her actions. But sometimes we do things and don’t realize the impact they will have on others—because we just don’t know what’s going on in their lives. In either case, part of our responsibility is to let go of the guilt—even if we had prior knowledge—once we have sincerely made amends. Remember to let go of the guilt not only if you are the offender but also the offended.
- Move forward with knowledge. Unintentional, negative consequences that we cause to others sometimes have a way of propelling us forward. We shouldn’t just go forward blindly, however—we should move forward intentionally, armed with knowledge to help us better interact with others. I believe that my friend now will think twice before showing me anything inappropriate now that she realizes how serious I am about keeping my mind and thoughts pure. I will also continue being open and honest with my friends about my struggles to help them understand my own needs.
Remember that even when you didn’t mean to, you can still, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:23). Own it, drop the guilt, and move forward with knowledge to become a better person in Christ and more authentically responsible.
Have your actions ever caused unforeseen consequences for someone? How did you handle it?