Education Week: Accepting responsibility brings happiness

Elder Lynn G. Robbins said taking responsibility and avoiding anti-responsibility actions can lead to increased agency and a happier life. Elder Robbins said this is always the case, no matter who is in the right. (Dani Jardine)

Accepting responsibility allows people to move toward light at a more accelerated pace, according to the Education Week devotional address by Presidency of the Seventy member Elder Lynn G. Robbins.

Elder Robbins focused on two doctrinal pairs — agency and responsibility, and mercy and justice — saying Satan works to divide these pairs in order to wreak havoc on mankind.

He called agency without responsibility the “Korihor principle,” in which people do not take any sort of responsibility and agency begins to be misused for evil purposes. Similar to Korihor from the Book of Mormon, no action is considered condemnable for those who separate agency from responsibility.

Elder Robbins said another of Satan’s attacks is the “Nehor Principle,” which dulls or minimizes responsibility by denying justice and relying entirely on mercy. This is similar to the teachings of Nehor from the Book of Mormon, who preached everyone would be saved no matter their actions. Elder Robbins called denying justice a twin of avoiding responsibility.

Elder Robbins said Satan’s most common tactics in getting people to avoid responsibility are to tempt people to blame others, rationalize disobedience, make excuses, trivialize sin, hide sinful activity, avoid or abandon responsibility, lie, rebel, complain, find fault and get angry, make demands or entitlements, lose hope, experience self-pity, procrastinate and fear.

He said these actions are dangerous because they halt progress and lead people to surrender their agency, allowing Satan to control their lives.

The natural man is irresponsible by nature, according to Elder Robbins.

“Rather than repent to eliminate guilt, he sedates it with excuses,” Elder Robbins said. “It gives him this false sense that his environment or someone else is to blame, and therefore he does not need to repent.”

To show how anti-responsibility actions are counterproductive no matter the circumstance, Elder Robbins shared a story about a company he and a few partners started together.

The company gave time-management seminars to clients, and before the seminars it was important to prepare and ship several boxes of training materials.

Two distribution center employees sent the boxes, frequently making errors such as insufficient quantities of materials, omitted materials or late deliveries.

Elder Robbins said he was responsible for the distribution center and when he spoke to the two employees in charge of the shipments about the issues, they would blame others and refuse responsibility for any of the incidents. The errors continued.

After seminar guidebooks were not delivered for a particularly large and important seminar the company was giving, Elder Robbins said he decided to implement an incentive system to motivate the two employees to be more careful with the shipments.

He decided to award bonuses and extra pay for correct shipments and penalties for incorrect shipments, no matter who was at fault in the process.

Elder Robbins said the two employees began to review forms, to check documents to see whether the correct delivery date was entered and to carefully mark the shipping boxes and send them out even earlier. Through taking responsibility, the employees were able to finally stop the errors.

“They learned that excuses keep you from taking control of your life,” Elder Robbins said. “They learned that it is self-defeating to blame, make excuses or justify mistakes, even when you are right. The moment you do any of these self-defeating things, you lose control over the positive outcomes you are seeking.”

Elder Robbins said the Savior is the most responsible person in the world and the greatest example of someone who did not find fault, criticize or blame. Instead, he always built up, edified and saved.

Elder Robbins said the greatest danger of anti-responsibility actions is they blind people to the need for repentance. He said denying God’s justice and saying there is no accountability for sin also denies God’s justification in the forgiveness of sin.

When people take responsibility for their sins and forgiving others’ sins leads to healing and greater agency.

“Being 100 percent responsible is accepting yourself as the person in control of your life,” Elder Robbins said. “If others are at fault and need to change before further progress is made, then you are at their mercy and they are in control over the positive outcomes or desired results in your life.”

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