Character Chats

Messing Up Responsibly

How do we show responsibility when we make a mistake?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social, emotional learning program called True Character, and this month we are talking about responsibility.

I am Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I was a special education teacher for 15 years, and I have two Masters Degrees in education. Basically what that means is I have taken all of that knowledge and learning that I’ve acquired and applied it to what we teach on the mats. Our youngest is three and our oldest is 83.

And we make sure that as we’re talking about these words like responsibility, we’re relating it to everyone so that they can all understand what we’re talking about.

Apologizing responsibly

And this month we’re talking about responsibility. We started the month talking about being reliable, accountable, and dependable.

And then last week we talked about how you show responsibility when you borrow something, you keep a promise, how you prioritize, how you’re on time, but what happens with your responsibility when you make a mistake?

The responsible thing to do is apologize.


So let’s take the example of borrowing. You have borrowed your friend’s favorite marker, and you broke it in half, and they’re obviously very upset.

Do you pretend it never happened? Do you tell them, “That’s how you gave it to me” or do you do the responsible thing and own up for it and work to make it right?

That is what we are talking about when we’re talking about responsibility when we make mistakes.

We need to make sure that we own up to that. It is not easy. It’s not easy. I will agree to that, but it is something that we need to be able to do.

Being late

Let’s say we’re late. We’re late for a meeting. We’re late for a game. We’re late for class. We’re late for school.

Do we just walk in, throw our stuff down, sit down and pretend like we were there the whole time? And then when somebody looks at us, we go, “What?”

Or do we apologize? “I’m sorry I was late. I got stuck in traffic or lost track of time” or better yet. No excuses. “I’m sorry I was late. It won’t happen again.”

Owning up

So when we’re showing those kinds of responsibilities, we’re owning up to those errors, because we all make mistakes. We all do. There is no one who is perfect.

So as we’re continuing through and we’re talking about this, we want to make sure that we continue to be the person who gets the job done.

We continue to be the person who recognizes what is needed, what is expected and works towards accomplishing those tasks. That’s how we show that responsible person.

Acting responsibly

So for my younger kids, sometimes it’s as easy as explaining it as though they were at a birthday party and it was time to go home.

And Mom and Dad have said to them, “Hey, it’s time to leave.” Do you ignore them? Or is the responsible thing to do to gather up your things and start walking out the door?

We all know you want to stay longer because you’re having fun with your friends, but maybe there’s other things that need to be done.

So as we’re talking about making sure that we are doing the responsible thing, we’re talking about our behaviors.

Negative choices

Let’s say one of the choices that was made was to ignore and not leave the party.

Well, there’s going to be consequences at that point. Maybe there’s a loss of electronics. Maybe there’s grounding. Maybe there’s going to bed without extra birthday cake. Maybe there’s no birthday party the next day or something else. There’s some kind of negative consequence.

Positive choices

But let’s look at it from the other side because consequences can be positive or negative.

You listened, you followed the directions, you showed that you could be responsible.

Well now, there’s praise and thank you for listening. And maybe that Mom and Dad were trying to get you to leave the birthday party because you actually needed to go to another party that you didn’t know about, and there’s more fun to be had. Who knows?

There’s positive and negative consequences to all of our actions.

Adult examples

Same thing with grownups. We prioritize things.

We have to think of it from the standpoint of the positive consequences and the negative consequences.

You’re on time for work. You get in, you show you’re responsible. You take care of your things. Promotions, raises, more money, all of those things fall under positive consequences.

You’re late. You don’t take care of things. You’re not diligent in what you’re supposed to be doing.

There’s negative consequences. You miss out on a promotion, or you get demoted, or your wages stay the same.

All of those things play a role in how we decide our responsibilities.


And we all make mistakes and we all mess up.

It’s what we do when that happens that really shows that we are taking responsibilities for our actions.

Thanks, and we’ll see on the mat!

True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here.