Last week I wrote about the blame game. It is far easier to blame everyone and everything else, than to look honestly in the mirror and ask what my responsibility is in the heat of the moment. The technical word for blaming others, and not taking personal responsibility is under functioning. This week I want to look at over functioning. Over functioning is far tougher, because in most places of our lives we celebrate this kind of behavior. We celebrate the person who takes responsibility for everything and everyone, who sticks their nose into everyone’s business. If under functioner’s call is “It’s not my fault,” the over functioner’s line of choice is “let me do it.”
The challenge is that we like when people overfunction. We even have language to affirm people who take responsibility for things that are not theirs. We celebrate people in the office who take on nearly every project or task and call them team players and dedicated. You see it in the parent calling to negation their child’s pay at their first job who are “loving parents”, or who call their 21 year olds professor to negotiate grades because they are “involved” in their children’s lives. At church it gets even tougher because we have attached spiritual language to our overfunctioners and talk about their hearts of service and their passion for ministry. What we don’t see is that for one to over function, and to take responsibility for what is not theirs, another person reciprocates by under functioning. Just a few ways it shows up:
Over functioning is….
Assuming more responsibility than is reasonably yours
Doing things for others that they can do for themselves
Worrying about other people
Feeling responsible for others, knowing what is best for them
Talking more than listening
Having goals for others that they don’t have for themselves
Yet when we look at the examples of discipleship in scripture that Jesus himself models, we see a very different pattern. We hear this in Matthew 10:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Jesus sends out the disciples, knowing that they will hit some bumps in the road, questions left unanswered, and their training incomplete. What we see in Jesus is that by not allowing others the chance to fully live into what God is calling them to do, we are cheating them out of the opportunities for growth and learning that you have experienced.
So as we wrap up I leave you with this quote on the impact of taking appropriate responsibility in our lives: “Learning to assume responsibility for what is reasonably yours and encouraging others to assume responsibility for what is reasonably theirs is an important part of a healthy and functioning group – whether it be family, church, work, or a missional community.”1