Are we always responsible for the consequences of our actions? It seems that’s the accepted wisdom, but I’m really not so sure. On one hand, it makes for a remarkably neat way of judging others, but it also feels like a convenient “get out of jail card” for absolving others of acting in an appropriate way.
Our social and political landscape is full of judgments on decisions that were made and the unintended consequences;
He should have known…
She should have seen that coming…
And similarly, our organisational rhetoric often places so much onus on individual actions and the subsequent consequences. Particularly the more senior that an individual gets.
I have no doubt that our actions define us, how we choose to be, how we present and behave, how we interact with others. Unless you believe in a higher force, we are all responsible for our actions. But in accepting this, do we throw ourselves open to however the universe responds as entirely fair?
If you choose to go out at night, are you responsible for being mugged?
Or wearing the wrong clothes, accepting of being harassed?
I don’t think anyone would suggest that the individual has to accept these consequences. Yet in the political, social and commercial aspects of life we hold a different burden of proof.
Being able to differentiate responsibility for the choices which we control and the consequences we do not allows us to analyse and interrogate responsibility in a much more balanced way, but it also helps us place responsibility where it really lies.
None of us want to be held to account for events truly out of our control. But whether we set the same bar for others…well that’s a different question.