Sep 292019 7 Responses

I Refuse to Own That

There are some things you simply shouldn’t own. I’m not talking about over-leveraged homes, underwear with holes in them, or cats. Although, you shouldn’t own any of those things either. There are some things you shouldn’t own because they don’t belong to you. Trying to take responsibility for them will raise your stress, compound your guilt, and deplete your energy.

Yet this is what we often do. It is tempting to take ownership of what is not rightly ours and to experience the negative consequences of that responsibility even though we have no control over the situation. It’s a recipe for emotional torment. And we must change.

Own Everything You Should

Refusing ownership actually begins by taking ownership. It’s only when we begin to take responsibility for what is ours that we start to release responsibility for what does not belong to us. Many people unknowingly take on what they shouldn’t because they are incapable or afraid of taking on what is rightfully theirs.

When we take responsibility for things which actually belong to others, we lose time and energy to own the things which actually belong to us. The truth is that we don’t have time to take on more things because taking responsibility for ourselves is a full-time job. (See: How to Better Control Yourself)

Refuse Everything Else

Once you identify and begin to take responsibility for what is rightfully yours, you should refuse responsibility for everything else. For some, this might come easily. For others, it is a great struggle. At an early age, I learned to take responsibility for things that did not belong to me. If my teacher was having a bad day, I had to cheer her up. When my team didn’t win the game, it was always my fault. If someone wasn’t happy with me, I had clearly done something wrong.

Sometimes these responses were true. My actions could impact my teacher or my team or someone else. Yet in most cases, I had little to do with the outcomes. But I was taking responsibility for them and feeling guilty over them even though I didn’t cause them.

Three Things to Refuse

Here are three things you can refuse to own:

Other people’s choices. I can influence others, pray for others, and hope that they will make the right decisions. But I cannot make choices for others when they are in a position to make them for themselves. Only in rare occasions such as having a medical power of attorney, can I take responsibility for the choices impacting another person. In every other scenario, I have to honor their God-given right to make choices for themselves and to recognize that ultimately I am not in control of what they choose even if I love them, have influence over them, am their parent/spouse, or may suffer negative consequences because of what they choose.

Other people’s emotions. I want other people to be happy, but I can’t make them happy. It is my desire that others would experience a low level of anxiety, but I can’t take their anxiety from them. People have a right to own their own emotions. When I try to take that from them, I am not honoring them as a person. When I attempt to own the emotions of others, I inevitably give up control of my own emotions.  (See: You Hurt My Feelings)

Other people’s interpretations of my words/actions. While I must go to great lengths in order to properly communicate to others, I am not ultimately responsible for interpretations they might have of what I have said and/or done. If they choose to mispresent my heart or intention, to misconstrue what I have done, or to manipulate the perspectives of others, that is not my responsibility. While I must be humble enough to hear my words and actions through the lens of other people, I do not have to be defined by them. They are responsible for doing the work to understand what I was trying to do or say. If they choose not to do that work and instead to assume negative intent, I can’t control that.

Liberating Refusal

It is a great gift to yourself and others when you stop taking on responsibility for things which you do not control. A simple process can be followed to assist you in this process:

  1. Own what is rightfully yours.
  2. Identify what belongs to others.
  3. Say out loud, “I refuse to own that” whenever you are tempted to take control of something.

Actually saying the words, “I refuse to own her response” or “I refuse to own his unhappiness” or “I refuse to own her opinion of me” sounds silly, but it has great power. By saying it and reminding yourself that you should not own those things which are not yours, you will begin to feel the release from things you can’t control.

What is one thing you are owning today which you simply should refuse?

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