Take Responsibility Instead of Assigning Fault

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Twelve years ago, I fell in love with a girl.

She said she loved me too.

I biked to her house every day after school and brought her gifts – poems, chocolates, and ping pong balls that said: “I love you.” It was a fairytale teenage romance.

The week before Christmas, she went on a cruise. She called three days into her trip and left a voicemail. I opened my flip phone, anticipating the sound of her soft, sweet voice.

Instead, I heard a male with a thick southern accent:

“Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that your girl is an awesome kisser.” [giggles in the background]

I listened to the voicemail ten times. I hoped it was a joke; I hoped she would come back and apologize for the prank she pulled.

Two days later, she called and said that she fell in love with a great guy from Tennessee.


Devastated, I spent Christmas Eve crying and cursing the gods while my uncle repeatedly told me to suck it up. That was a terrible Christmas. And for the next few months, I lived in the hamster wheel of misery while she flew to Tennessee and moved on. In the process of overcoming my pain and moving forward, I learned an important distinction:

There is an essential difference between responsibility and fault. And if you don’t learn how to separate the two when things go wrong, you will drown in misery.

When my girlfriend cheated and left me, she scarred my adolescent soul. I felt betrayed. I felt pain. I struggled to trust women.

Was she at fault for this situation? Absolutely. She delivered the dagger to my soul. She created the pain that I felt. But was she responsible for my emotional condition? At first, I thought she was. She caused the pain, and I felt that she was also responsible for alleviating it.

But I was wrong. She wasn’t responsible. Holding her responsible just delayed my recovery.

Because while fault lives in the past and determines who is to blame for something, responsibility lives in the present and decides who is going to improve things.

So while my girlfriend was to blame for my emotional condition, she was not responsible for it.

I was responsible. Despite what happened and how shitty I felt, I had to find a way to be happy again. I had to find a way to trust women again. I had to find a way to move forward. She didn’t need to be a part of this process. It had nothing to do with her.

Once I made this subtle, but necessary mindset shift, my life improved. By taking responsibility for how I felt, I was empowered to find a way to solve my problems. And eventually, I did. My life got better. I moved on.

”Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.” – Rosamund and Benjamin Zander

Accepting responsibility for everything in your life is the first step to solving your problems and improving your life. Because when you genuinely take responsibility, you are in the driver’s seat. You are empowered to choose how you perceive and respond to everything that happens.

You no longer focus on who is at fault for your unfortunate circumstances. You are no longer interested in playing the blame game because you understand that it only leads to more misery and fewer solutions.

Instead, you are prepared to do what it takes to feel okay and find a productive path forward when the large intestine of life has a few drinks, loosens up, and decides to shit all over you.

When your mom commits suicide, you are prepared to do what you need to do to avoid crumbling in the face of extreme shock and grief.

When people treat you differently because of your socioeconomic class, race, or gender, you are prepared to find a way to live the life you want in a world in which these things exist.

When your husband gets killed by a drunk driver, you are prepared to find a way to move past the inevitable anger and resentment you will feel.

Accepting responsibility is rarely easy. It doesn’t take away the pain, injustice, or difficulty. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t get screwed over or dealt a shitty hand of cards.

But it’s necessary. Because when you accept responsibility, you are prepared to deal with life’s only guarantee – that things will go wrong.

In an unjust world riddled with pain and evil, you are empowered to find a way to live as a happy and good person.

If you enjoyed this essay…