Quaker Practice

Shedding the Cloak of Over-Responsibility

Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”

~  E. B. White

I can’t recall when my mission to save the world and others began or how I became overly responsible. It’s been such a part of me for so long I didn’t realize what a toll it was taking until I got older. This cloak of over-responsibility is heavy. It slows my steps, saps my life energy and joy. It keeps me so busy; I don’t have time to slow down, rest and savor life.

I suspect I’m not the only Friend who struggles with this. For those of you who think you might be overly responsible too, here’s a good read on the topic:

I’ve been working on shedding my cloak of over-responsibility for some time now. I’m getting better at recognizing when I’m taking on something beyond my Light, overstepping my bounds, taking responsibility for another or something totally out of my control. I feel a heaviness on my shoulders and in my heart. I get tense, pushy, judgmental.

As the article noted above points out, responsibilities are a normal part of adult life and being responsible is not the problem. Normal responsibilities include doing our jobs well, being there for our loved ones, taking care of our homes and yards, paying our bills, etc. Over-responsibilities are when we take on what isn’t ours to do, like fixing others’ feelings or mistakes, trying to keep peace between people who enjoy conflict and drama, taking on other’s work or more than our fair share of a project, etc. We can get so caught up working on an endless To Do List, that we don’t take time to slow down, enjoy life and rest.

These days, I’m learning to slow down and savor life, to take time for rest and reflection. I’m experimenting with doing this while I’m working on a task. For example, I’ll take a break from weeding to commune with the plants I’m tending, to ask what they need from me, to thank them for their gifts and enjoy their beauty. When I take breaks like this, I have more stamina and fewer injuries, along with more joy. How I do my work is changing and it’s still getting done. I always thought I had to be a rigid taskmaster to get everything done. Now I don’t worry when I don’t get to everything on the list. It’ll be there for me tomorrow. I use the Simplicity testimony and ask myself if I’m taking on things beyond my Light and over-complicating my day. Am I walking with Spirit and listening to what is truly needed today?

My cloak of over-responsibility still hangs in my inner closet, and occasionally I deliberately put it on and tackle a challenge I feel led to accept. I then look for ways to engage others in a worthy cause, so we can share the load. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and I must lay it down. I’m getting better at recognizing and accepting that before I’m completely fried. Sometimes the cloak ends up on my shoulders and I don’t know how it got there! Old patterns take a long time to change. It’s good to remember that and be gentle with ourselves. It seems to me the best thing we can do is be in the moment and respond with love to what life brings us. Can we trust that is enough?


How do I live a compassionate life and be a good steward without becoming obsessive, moralistic, judgmental, and pushy about my yearning to save or improve?

What is the next right thing to do that is loving towards myself, others and the Whole?

What can I let go of that isn’t mine to do, carry, think about?

Am I taking time to care for myself and tend my own Light? To savor life?

By Rhonda Ashurst, Blog Contributor, Reno Friends Meeting

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.