Sometimes, as people, we hurt others. Regardless if it’s intentional or not, we are supposed to accept personal responsibility for our actions. My question is: should this always be the formula for resolving interpersonal battles? Guilt the person who is wrong into feeling some part in the creating or supporting negative behaviors? In reality, does this style of conflict resolution reduce the likelihood of that person offending again? The truth is, it doesn’t, in fact, this style of conflict resolution only exacerbates feelings of invalidation and rejection.

In mental health treatment similar to our personal battles with friends and family comes the inescapable talking out of issues and resolving differences with providers, discussing uncertainty with treatment recommendations, and social infractions with friends and colleagues when our interpersonal engagement skills fail us. In situations in which our misbehaviors behaviors are due to an underlying mental health condition, the person guilty shouldn’t be personally responsible for their actions if their symptoms intensify beyond the limits of capacity. Without capacity, how can a person be responsible for intentionally doing anything reflective of their choosing or free-will? The law requires a person to have capacity to accept full flame to be expected to move through our correctional system at its most harsh and extreme moments when sentencing criminals.

When a person takes personal responsibility we call it owning it. This means, through the imposition of will, making the experience an extension of our behaviors. Once the wrongdoing is transferred from the behavior and subsumed by the person a judgment is entered as guilty and morally responsible. This wholesale characterization of the person who did wrong as committing a personal offense is limited and unrepresentative so why are still using this formula as the basis of our moral compass or judging people for their offense.

I don’t want to feel like a criminal when resolving conflict just because social grace reminds us that with a behavior others can get a reading on our ethical and moral bends? It is doubtful that any relationship with the larger world around us says anything more about our personalities and character traits than choosing between the value meal and just the sand which at your local drive through fast food adventure.

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