Responsibility without power

It’s a slavery that can do harm.

I had just finished leading a retreat.

People were preparing to go home.

Sarah, who had been one of those attending, spoke to me before she left.

‘If I came to see you, would you be able to help me?’ she asked.

‘I can never promise that,’ I said. ‘The work is yours and not mine. But I’d do my best to be helpful – I can promise you that.’

In a world that is a slave to ‘outcomes’, it’s important for my own sanity to remember what I can, and cannot, promise.

What I can, and cannot, take responsibility for.

I have skills to offer; and a commitment to Sarah’s health.

But in the end, Sarah is responsible for her own wellbeing.

I can only promise to do my best.

And so I let go of outcomes, I won’t be its slave.

There is no peace – and much self-punishment – in responsibility without power.