Responsibility

March 10, 2009 at 8:03 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I’ve been thinking a lot about responsibility just lately.  Out of sheer curiosity, I thought I’d look it up.  This is the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary (via dictionary.com):

re·spon·si·ble (rĭ-spŏn’sə-bəl)

  1. Liable to be required to give account, as of one’s actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust.
  2. Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority: a responsible position within the firm.
  3. Being a source or cause.
  4. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one’s own and therefore answerable for one’s behavior.
  5. Able to be trusted or depended upon; reliable.
  6. Based on or characterized by good judgment or sound thinking: responsible journalism.
  7. Having the means to pay debts or fulfill obligations.
  8. Required to render account; answerable: The cabinet is responsible to the parliament.

Responsibility is almost like the Holy Grail of adulthood, at least in the United States.  Most everyone wants to be a responsible adult, and wants those they care about to be one, too.  It makes life easier, when everyone is responsible and self-reliant.

I mean, looking at the definition, it means that you can make decisions alone, that you can be depended upon, that you can pay your bills.  It means that you can be held liable for your actions and trusted to have good judgment.  It means that you recognize yourself as the originator and cause of your own actions.

But is that really all it is?  I’ve wondered, lately.  I personally think that I am a responsible adult, and yet I don’t quite fit that definition.  I am both less and more.  Less, because I still rely on my parents for advice (and in some cases, financial assistance).  But also more, because others rely on me.

I have begun to think that true responsibility comes only when you realize that you are not alone in the world.  When you realize that you need other people, and let yourself lean on them when you need it.  And when you realize that other people need you, and give them your support when they need it.  The world is interconnected, and it is actually very irresponsible to assume that any person can do it all alone.  When you inevitably find yourself in a bind, your problems are bigger than you ever thought they would be, and it’s that much harder to find solutions.  I suppose, as they say, no man is an island.

I think this is true on a personal level and a more impersonal one.  On my own personal level, I still rely on my parents for advice, and sometimes financial support.  I rely on my siblings for emotional support (and sometimes just plain entertainment).  I rely on Amiel for nearly everything.  But I am responsible for nearly the entire economic burden of my household.  In that respect, Amiel is very much dependent upon me.  Ideally, we will eventually share that burden equally, and be dependent upon each other.  Eventually, I will also be far more responsible for my parents than they are for me right now.

Or, nationally, I am responsible for the health and well-being of this country, as is every other citizen. I  pay my taxes, I follow the laws, and I vote.  But this country (and everyone in it) is also responsible for me.  It must protect me when I am threatened, and it provides a safety net (consisting of social welfare) if I ever fall on hard times.

Even internationally, this holds true.  The world is so interconnected that something that happens in one country can have an affect on every other country in the world.  When each country is responsible, each is able to help those in trouble, and receive help when it is in trouble.

I suppose this explains a lot about my own philosophy of the world I live in.  Interconnectedness isn’t just some thing that happened while we weren’t looking.  It is, I think, the very foundation of our nature as humans.  We are all drawn towards responsibility, because of the promise of independence that comes with it.  But we are also drawn towards responsibility because of the ability it gives all of us to rely on each other.  A person who is truly responsible understands that we all need each other, and tries to make sure that a workable system of give and take is there when we need it.

And, I suppose, my definition of irresponsibility is trying to get rid of that system of give and take when you don’t need it – but expecting everyone else to build it up again when you do.

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1 Comment

  1. Kristan said,

    I have nothing to say except that I agree completely. 🙂

    Very eloquent, madam!

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