One of the worst failings I have: I see the best in people.

Sometimes, I see in people things that they cannot see themselves. I see their brilliance, their pure selves. I see their potential.

My college speech coach, George, would tell people that they were “wallowing in their potential.” I saw it too. And I loved people through the wallow.

I still do.

It is a failing because when I encourage people that they can do better, they respond to me with rebellion. After all, they are wallowing for a reason. If they wanted to break out of their resistant patterns, they would have done so. They have to do so in their own time.

I’ve lost friendships because I call things like I see them sometimes. I see that people can do better. But honestly, that’s not my responsibility. I get that now. Well, again. It’s a message that keeps showing up for me.

My only responsibility is my own response-ability. My own ability to respond in the best way possible.

And, I try — and sometimes fail — in doing so.

But I do own it. And, it is my response-ability. Being told by someone who attacks me publicly that I should not respond in the way I have chosen to respond is kind of… not ok. I think I have a right to say, “If you did not want me to respond that way, was there perhaps a better way to communicate your intent? And what was your intent anyway?”

But people do things for weird reasons sometimes. We came into this experience as humans to poke each other with our karmic broken pieces, I think. Sometimes those broken pieces hurt. But we all have the ability to respond to that hurt in the most productive ways possible.

I think clear intent from a communicator is something we all intuit, however. I’ve noticed that I can often “listen” to others’ communication on multiple levels. There are words, but there is another channel from which there is other information. Maybe kind of like the alien communication from the movie Contact. It sounded one way, but it was packed with additional data. I think we humans communicate in this way, but we haven’t trained ourselves to be able to get it. So when intent and words don’t line up, messages get muddied. Relationships get strained.

Intent matters. In fact, I think we lead with our intent. In NLP, they say that the reaction you receive from your communication is your intent. Keeping this in mind as we craft messages, we can often line up our communication so that the response we desire and our intent line up. Imagining our target market, or our friend or our spouse, responding in the way we’d like helps us explore our own intent, rather than reacting based on the emotion of the moment.

And, between stimulus and response… there is our power.

We’re not victims to circumstance. Sure, there are lots of things that occur in our lives over which we have no control. However, there are quite a few things over which we do have control, response-ability, and that lies between what happens and how we choose to respond. We can expand the space there. It doesn’t have to be up to genetics, or familial patterns, or societal norms. It can be… literally whatever you want.

But you have to take responsibility. Only after taking full responsibility for yourself and your experience can you find true freedom.

There’s a line in a James song, I Know What I’m Here For, that’s always rung true: “Are you disciplined enough to be free?” It’s true. If you want true freedom, you have to have some discipline of responsibility. You have to know what you’re here for, be disciplined enough to stay focused on that intent, and freedom and opportunity comes to you. Discipline, maturity and responsibility are the foundation for getting what you want.

So, even at my advancing age, I still haven’t figured it out completely, but I am figuring it out more.

And in my discipline to let people fail, to let people wallow in their potential, to let people jump off of proverbial cliffs, and let people throw adult tantrums, I will eventually find my own freedom.