Learning How to Promote Responsibility

There is a story about an old and wise martial arts master who invited his new student to share tea and conversation to begin the teacher-student relationship. The student, who already had much training and learning from other teachers, looked eager and ready to learn. He said, “Teach me, master, how to be a great fighter.”

The wise master reached over with the teapot and began to pour the tea. He continued to pour even after the cup filled to the top. Tea began pouring down the sides. The student panicked, “It is already full. Why are you still pouring?”

The master responded, “So too, is your mind. It is filled with previous knowledge and experiences. You must empty your mind of everything you already know in order to learn how to receive new knowledge—or I cannot teach you.”

So it is with promoting responsibility. Using the external manipulators of rewarding for appropriate behavior and imposing punishments for inappropriate behavior both aim at obedience. OBEDIENCE DOES NOT CREATE DESIRE. Since responsibility is never achieved unless taken willingly (regardless of its being given), DESIRE is essential for developing this characteristic.

One must empty the cup of external motivation thinking in order to influence a person to WANT to be responsible. The reason is that the most effective way to influence a person is to induce the person to influence himself. External approaches lack this essential learning ingredient. Internal motivation is far more powerful and effective in long-lasting changes of behavior, character development, and promoting responsibility than are external rewards or imposing punishments.