Her arm was broken, and I felt terrible. I was 19 years old working at a summer youth camp with kids age 8 through 12. I was teaching a class we called Imagineering. Using an assortment of ropes, hay bales, tires, poles and other materials, the campers had built an obstacle course that they then navigated on the last day of camp. On one obstacle, this girl had fallen awkwardly, and that ended her camp experience. Now she was being driven off to a clinic.
That night, I was really discouraged. I talked to my Dad, hoping for something like: That’s OK—accidents happen. Instead, to my dismay, he corrected me. “You have to ensure those campers’ safety, above everything else,” he said strongly.
A second session of the camp was beginning within a couple days. “Figure out a way to put them in safety harnesses or something,” he told me. “The parents are counting on you, and this simply must be right.”
That was a tough pill to swallow. But without that correction, I probably would have floundered in self-pity, changed nothing, learned nothing, and perhaps had a repeat experience. Instead I was forced to accept blame, take responsibility, and fix the problem.
My battle in that moment is one I have faced many times since. It is common to anyone trying to accomplish anything worthwhile. It comes from the weight of responsibility.
Responsibility is a potent word. It can be used to mean a task or job—like, It’s my responsibility to take out the trash. Getting a new responsibility can be a mark of progress and maturity, like looking after your younger siblings when your parents go out for an evening. A responsibility can be an opportunity, like getting to drive the family car and bringing it home with a full tank. The word can also refer to accountability: a burden, or even blame or guilt. It’s her responsibility to keep her grades from slipping. He bears responsibility for that broken window.
In a sense, all these things boil down to the fact that when you receive a job or opportunity, you are also held responsible. Others are relying on you. You must do the job and do it right.
Are you responsible? Can people rely on you? Are you dependable? You want opportunity, but do you also accept accountability? Be honest with yourself. Judge your success not by good intentions or wishful thinking but by actual results.
To follow through on a job or commitment—to be dependable to others even when you don’t like it or it’s inconvenient—can be hard to do! It takes character.
When God gives someone a responsibility, He wants to see results. Our human nature wants to wiggle out and put up excuses. Moses said, I’m not good enough (Exodus 3:11; 4:10). Gideon said, My family is too lowly (Judges 6:15). Jeremiah said, I’m too young (Jeremiah 1:6). The slothful servant said, My boss is too harsh (Matthew 25:24-25). God doesn’t accept excuses. He wants results.
Perhaps you don’t have the greatest family situation, and a lot of extra burden has fallen on your shoulders as a result. That can definitely make life more challenging. But if you approach that additional responsibility the right way and get God’s help, it can also accelerate your maturation and character growth.
Fundamentally, it is a choice you make. You choose whether you can be relied on or not. It is simply a matter of the priority you put on it. If your priority is to grow in godly character, then you will take responsibility for yourself—and be dependable and trustworthy to others. You will carry out your commitments. If you don’t put a priority on it, you will get distracted. You’ll need reminding. You’ll always show up late and hold others up. You’ll be unpredictable and unreliable. This will create a host of problems in your life—your education, work, relationships and spiritual life—until you correct it.
God is training us to be reliable, trustworthy and responsible. We have to think about that with every task we’re given. When you are given a job, get it done. See it through even when it gets hard. Don’t intend to see it through. Don’t try to see it through. Don’t wish you could see it through. See it through. Choose to make success your priority. Work at being dependable.
During that second session of summer camp, I rigged all the campers up in safety harnesses. This actually made it so the obstacles could be more daring, exciting and fun. We made it through with no injuries, and I had a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
God will give you the help you need if you do your part. But you must do your part—whether it’s protecting students on your obstacle course, finishing that research paper by the deadline without needing reminders, or proving yourself an attentive, diligent worker on your after-school job. When you’re given a job, do it right. Stick with it to the end!
If you are doing this right, then you will earn a reputation for responsibility. People will be able to count on you. And so will God!