Owning Your Stuff

Sometimes in relationships people get into the habit of taking on the problems of other people. Here’s an example: Let’s say Dick and Jane are married, and they are about to go out to dinner. Jane comes out of the bedroom, and Dick says, “You’re wearing THAT?”

Whose problem is this? Dick’s or Jane’s? This is Dick’s problem. He doesn’t like what Jane is wearing. Now, Jane has a choice. Some Janes in the world will be crushed and immediately run back to her closet and pick something else, hoping to please Dick. 

Other Janes will say with confidence, “Yes, this is what I’m wearing,”  looking him in the eye with a big smile on her face, grabbing her purse, and heading out the door not missing a beat. 

Or how about this scenario. For the fifth time in the last year, your sister’s lights are about to be shut off because she hasn’t paid her bill. She calls you up, begs you to send money, giving you all her excuses of why this has happened AGAIN.

Whose problem is this? Sister’s or Brother’s? This is Sister’s problem. Brother may feel it is now his problem because Sister has invited him into it. However, he has a choice. He can involve himself in the situation or not.

My favorite is when someone says anything like this: “He MADE me do it.” “She makes me so mad.” “The world is just against me.” “Some people have all the luck.” “It’s just the cards I’ve been dealt.”

Dick, Sister, and anyone who lives saying these things on a regular basis have one thing in common: They don’t take responsibility for their actions, thoughts, or feelings. They expect other people or the world in general to make things all better for them.

Now, before you get all upset with me, please remember, I am a compassionate person who believes in helping other people so much so that I do it for a living. Everybody needs support sometimes in one form or another, myself included.

The distinction to consider is whether or not the person seeking change/help from another is really trying to take responsibility for their circumstances or not.  

For example, maybe Dick had his heart set on Jane wearing a certain outfit that matched his tie but forgot to mention it to her earlier. He could make a special request for her to switch outfits at the last minute, apologizing for his neglect in saying anything sooner.

Maybe Sister has had a series of unexpected expenses, such as the car breaking down, medical bills, etc. that make it particularly difficult to manage regular expenses. Maybe she offers ideas on how and when she could begin to pay Brother back if he can help her in a crunch.

However, Sister may just be perpetually irresponsible with money and expects other people to rescue her constantly. Dick may be a controlling spouse who thinks he has a right to tell his wife how to dress.

The bottom line is this: People need to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions, period. We need to “own our own stuff” and let everyone else own theirs. 

When you continuously enable someone to be irresponsible, you are not helping them and you will eventually resent the relationship and everything you are giving up (time, money, emotional energy) to accommodate their lack of concern for anyone but themselves. 

If you believe the world is out to get you, other people are making you feel any certain way, or that “some people have all the luck,” you are off track and will never be truly happy. 

Realize that you are primarily responsible for your life and yes, sometimes things happen out of your control, but how you choose to think and feel about it and what action you take in response to it is entirely up to you. 

We don’t buy a home and expect others to take care of it for us. In the same way, we need to own our “stuff” that isn’t actual “stuff,” take responsibility for it all and let others do the same.  

© - Cindy D. Whitmer (October 4, 2014)