I’ve always cared about the journeys of other people. Years ago, serving as a youth pastor, I was concerned about “my” students learning, maturing, and owning their faith. As a pastor overseeing “connections,” I served with a team implementing a process by which adults could find relationships through "groups" and volunteer opportunities. I didn’t rest easily until everyone had made those connections. When I managed a retail clothing store years ago, I also cared about the job performance and personal lives of my team.
I still care for people. I still feel responsible. But not as I once did. And I’m really happy about that.
It’s not that I care less. I just don’t feel responsible for people. I do, however, feel responsible to people.
There’s a big difference.
When I felt responsible for every person, my failure or success depended on their steps in their journeys. When I felt responsible for our students, I considered their missteps to be my fault. I felt profound guilt when people didn’t line up with what I thought they should know and do.
Being responsible to people is quite different. And incredibly freeing. Consider this...
When I’m responsible for people, I think I should decide for them.
When I’m responsible to people, I understand they have choices.
When I’m responsible for people, I try to tell them what their next steps are.
When I’m responsible to people, I know they must figure out their next steps.
When I’m responsible for people, I assume the guilt—or worse, the shame—for them.
When I’m responsible to people, I know they must bear the consequences of their own chosen actions.
When I’m responsible for people, I try to direct their journeys, never allowing them to wrestle, mess up, or make a wrong turn.
When I’m responsible to people, I share their journeys, offering encouragement and teaching.
When I’m responsible for people, I talk to people a lot on God’s behalf.
When I’m responsible to people, I talk to God a lot on their behalf.
It’s true you can’t create people. They’re already created. You also can’t re-create them. You can’t make them grow. You can’t force steps. It’s not that you’re somehow failing to do so; it’s just not possible. It’s not your job to make sure everyone in your church (or your life) is taking their next steps. Whatever those next steps are, they are their next steps, not yours. It’s their responsibility, not yours.
Stop trying. It’s not your job. Only Spirit can transform human lives.