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We Aren't Responsible For Other People

Learning to stop taking things personally.

"I’m responsible to the tips of my own fingers; I’m not responsible to anyone else." - Don Miguel Ruiz Jr

I love the above quote. I read it in the book The Mastery Of The Self by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr, he's the son of the author who wrote the infamous spiritual book The Four Agreements.

I really like the entire series of books by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son, they are beautifully written, deeply spiritual, and they are full of stories, anecdotes and parables - which is probably why I love them so much.

The quote above about the fingers is basically explaining how our responsibility ends with ourselves. We aren't responsible for how other people feel, just as they aren't responsible for how we feel. It teaches us to take things less personally and to concentrate on where we are at. Ironically, the more that we look after where are heads and hearts are at, the more present and useful we can actually be to those people around us.

When somebody says something, or does something, that causes us offence or hurt, our normal way of responding is to blame them and get angry or sad. Essentially, their actions and words were a statement of where they were at, more than it is a judgement of us. If saying something brutal or doing something that causes another to suffer is the best that that person could do at the time, with all the resources that they had available to them, then they are the ones most likely suffering, they are the ones who are probably hurting. When we choose to take it personally though we are taking their hurt and making it our own. In reality they are only acting out to the version of us that is in their heads, it isn't the real us, it's a story that they tell themselves about who they think we are.

We all do it.

We never truly see another person, we see the version of them that we have created inside of us, that suits our worldview. From that perspective it feels insane to take personally somebody else's story of you. It's a caricature at best.

This goes the same way in reverse. When we act out and say or do hurtful things to other people, it is because the version of them in our heads is not aligning with the way we want the world to be in that moment. They are late, untidy, too pretty, too wealthy, too happy. It could be anything, but something that they are doing, saying, or just being has triggered something inside of us, and we project it outwards rather than having the courage to go inside and see what that trigger was.

When we realise that we are only responsible to the end of our own fingers, we become instantly freer. We only have to look after the contents of our own hearts and minds, we are no longer responsible for everybody else.

This great interview with Don Miguel Ruiz Jr shares a great story of how his father taught him this lesson.

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