Responsibility Assumed

July 22, 2010

Yesterday, a young man came to my office and apologized for the unacceptable way he treated me recently. He recognized his lapse in good judgment, offered no excuses (e.g. well, I did it because you did this…), and accepted full responsibility for his behavior. There was no mistaking his sincerity.

I was very proud of him; however, I must admit I was surprised.

In my 12 years of teaching, I have to tell you honestly that I witness poor behavior in every class I teach. But in all those years, only a handful of students have had the strength of character to do what this young man did.

I was glad to have the opportunity to tell him that I think he has unlimited potential. Even after his instance of poor behavior, I continued to believe that he had that rare combination of intelligence, charisma, and drive that would enable him to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.

Equally rare is the ability to recognize there is a gap between where you currently are and where you need to be. Most of us avoid living with the discomfort of that gap by refusing to tell ourselves the truth about our current condition.

It’s simply easier and safer to compare ourselves to others and think that we are doing just fine.

Related Posts:

Today’s Problems Come From Yesterday’s Solutions

ACT Change: Inspire Others To Enact Their Best Selves

ACT Change: Recognize Hypocrisy And Patterns Of Self-Deception

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Comments (8)

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  1. Bret,

    I have attended various universities and community colleges for the last 12 years. I can say I too have seen a lot of bad behavior during classes. I find it redeeming that you have a student who realized and rectified his behavior with sincere intent. Love the reference to creative tension!
    Come check out my blog, I’d love your input.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    You are blogging – yea!!! It’s a lot of work, but keep at it. You can excel. Thanks! Bret

  2. Bret, I think this stems directly from you, that your student respected you enough to reconsider his behavior and face you with an apology. You are walking your talk by displaying leadership IN the classroom, and that makes you a more valuable professor, and human being – nice story, thanks for sharing.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks for the kind words, Kathy, but I don’t know. Still trying to understand organizational behavior… 🙂

  3. Janna Rust says:

    Hi Bret,

    Thanks for sharing this example we can all learn from as a way to make ourselves extraordinary. Sincerely taking a look at ourselves for our part in a situation or for our own deficits in general is worth the sometimes unpleasant things we notice.

    I also heard someone say one time too that the “blame game” is one of the biggest limiters to potential. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I agree that the blame game is bad news for a number of reasons. Thanks for the comment, Janna! Bret

  4. Matthew Dent says:

    Hey Bret,
    We create frames for ourselves while believing our current path is the correct one. It takes self awareness and seeking help from others to break through these frames. Giving yourself permission to continue with your growth is when you can really achieve whatever you put your mind to. I hope you are having a great summer!


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Matt! Your observation is ripe with wisdom. Why am I not surprised about that, coming from you? Thanks! Bret