The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The distribution of responsibilities

One of the big challenges we encounter is to figure out what our responsibility is.

We can give ourselves more responsibility than we have, simply because of the importance we give to a situation or person. We can also give others more responsibility than they have. We do this when we aren’t sure if we dare to take up responsibility or if there is a possibility to let others take it up.

One of the reasons for this challenge is the confusion we make between cause and effect. By taking up responsibility for an effect, that is a result, we have forgotten that we are not the ones who are triggering the result.

As trainers, for example, we’ll be preparing the material and will be explaining it to participants. We’ll do our best to contribute to their learning. And yes, with the ambition that participants enjoy the training and engage in the learning, we’ll do our best to make it happen. But we’ll never be able to reach our ambition without the participant’s contribution. Only engaged participants can learn. It is those willing to do the work to integrate the materials who will show us the best way to train participants.

To see how responsibilities are distributed we need to analyze the actions someone can entertain.

Police, for example, can only enforce the law. It is their responsibility. When safety is reinforced it is as a consequence of their work. The reason police exists is that some civilians decide to transgress their responsibilities. To live in a safe environment it would be sufficient if all civilians would take up this responsibility. It’s when this isn’t the case, that police can add to it.

Our wish for safety and the trust we have, or not, in other people, may have lead us to believe that beyond their responsibility to enforce the law and protect us, the police is also responsible for our safety.

Well, when we are driving faster than allowed, they protect us from continuing to do it by giving us a ticket for speeding. That’s because we are driving faster than what the law believes to be safe for us and others.


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