Responsibility, Authority, Power

As a single parent, these three concepts are theoretically all the same—I should have all of each. Right?

Hah.

Let’s talk about responsibility. I previously posted about the difference between responsibility and blame, which you can find if you click the Define Your Terms tag, but the gist of it is that responsibility can be defined as the ability to respond. The right to respond. The duty to respond. To whatever situation comes up. Meaning, if you are in a position of responsibility, it’s your job to handle things.

What about authority? It’s closely related. It is the job of being the person at the top, the one to whom all questions and debates are relegated for solving. It also means that when you make a bad decision, no one else can be blamed, no one else can try to fix it. It’s the job of making the decisions. The job of having the final word. Whether your word will be disputed or not hinges on the next concept.

Power is the ability to make your will into action. It’s internal, it’s external, it’s a point of view, a burden in itself. When the children are little, you certainly have it externally. It’s a function of their dependence on you, and a function of your relative size and strength. When they grow up, it becomes internal, a result of habit and of the flow of duty and right between yourself and the children. You can lose this power by being inconsistent, too weak, too easily manipulated—or by being too untrustworthy, overbearing, strict or making too many bad decisions. In essence, it is something they give to you—their obedience and your worthiness equals your power.

How these three things interface is parenthood.

Authority and responsibility, when properly handled, increase your power. Responsibility and power create your position of authority. Authority and power will improve your ability to respond well, to have responsibility. It’s a three way feedback system.

It can be a downward spiral, if you do it wrong, as easily as it can be an upward spiral if you do it right. If you are newly handed a position of this sort, such as being elected leader of your group, or being hired as a manager, or most importantly of all, becoming a parent… it behooves you to learn as much as you can. Take classes. Read books. This is a sacred duty, and nobody can do it automatically from birth. Ignorance is not bliss. It is damnation.

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