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Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility (or lack thereof)

Culture Articles

“Accept RESPONSIBILITY for your actions –

Be ACCOUNTABLE for your results


I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word and thought throughout our lifetime.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. Proverbs 15:33 NKJV

‘I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in a cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona: “Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.” I think that is the greatest epitaph a man can have…. And that is what I have tried to do.” Harry S. Truman 33rd US President, Democrat

“Personal responsibility is the willingness to both accept the importance of standards that society establishes for individual behavior and to make strenuous personal efforts to live by those standards. But personal responsibility also means that when individuals fail to meet expected standards, they do not look around for some factor outside themselves to blame. The demise of personal responsibility occurs when individuals blame their family, their peers, their economic circumstances, or their society for their own failure to meet standards. The three areas of personal decision-making in which the nation’s youth and young adults most need to learn and practice personal responsibility are education, sexual behavior and marriage, and work.” From “The Sequence of Personal Responsibility” by Ron Haskins, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, Budgeting for National Priorities, Senior Fellow Economic Studies

“At the crescendo of his astonishing inaugural address, President Obama called the nation’s attention to “a new era of responsibility.” What did he mean? At minimum, he meant that young Americans should be guided by a clear and straightforward set of goals: finish your education, get a job, get married, and only then have children — and get the sequence right. After that, everything is possible.” From “The Sequence of Personal Responsibility” by Ron Haskins, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, Budgeting for National Priorities Senior Fellow Economic Studies

I really don’t know if that was fully Obama’s intent, when he “called the nation’s attention to ‘a new era of responsibility”, or the writer’s interpretation of what he meant. Regardless, it is an admirable concept and one I feel should be embraced and encouraged.

If our young people were taught these standards and held to these standards, and not forgiven and enabled when they don’t, [ i.e. live with the consequences of their decision to avoid or abandon these principles] would not our society be better for it?

Responsible a definition – 1) expected or obliged to account for; answerable (to); 2) involving obligation or duties; 3) that is the cause of something; 4) able to distinguish between right and wrong: 5) dependable; reliable

Stated more clearly – our “response – ability”, How able are we to properly and effectively respond to stimuli, i.e. what’s going on around us? To not respond is to be paralyzed, inert, a slug! To choose to be a non-respondent, if you will, is a feeble attempt to pass the responsibility to others. Yet we are becoming a society where nothing is anyone’s responsibility (fault).

I’m dying of lung cancer because the tobacco companies addicted me. Never mind that I’ve been smoking since I was thirteen, back when cigarettes were called “cancer sticks” and “coffin nails” (they knew even back then). Even though the Surgeon General’s warning has been on every pack of cigarettes for the past forty years. And I never ever made even a single attempt to quit. I’m morbidly obese because I’m genetically predisposed to be fat. Even though I stop at the Seven-Eleven every morning for a 32 ounce “Big Gulp” and I’m a prized customer at the “all you can eat” buffet at least four nights a week, filling and refilling my plate. It’s not my fault. I can’t help it. Don’t hold me accountable. 1

And the national media weighs in on the side of the “victim”, bringing the “Big Gulp” cup-manufacturer onto every talk show and pop-psychology guru’s show to defend why they have made a container of such volume that is clearly dangerous and irresponsible?

Every criminal act today can be diminished, if not justified by extenuating circumstances. Our society has been corrupted by the contrived idea of “extenuating social circumstances”

Not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead, how about……….insane, ….. but guilty!!

He murdered a family of five! ”Well yes, but what can you expect, his father abandoned him and his mother when he was a child.”

“The essence of justice is mercy. Making a child suffer for wrongdoing is merciful to the child. There is no mercy in letting the child have its own will, plunging headlong to destruction with the bit in its mouth. There is no mercy to society nor to the criminal if the wrong is not repressed and the right vindicated. We injure the culprit who comes up to take his proper doom at the bar of justice, if we do not make him feel that he has done a wrong thing. We may deliver his body from the prison, but not at the expense of justice nor to his own injury.” E.H. Chapin, an American preacher, poet and editor of The Christian Leader

We must all live with the consequences of our decision/actions. PERIOD! End of discussion.

If I choose to drop out of school at 16, how can I blame an employer for not hiring me to fill a job which has the minimum requirement of a high school diploma?

We have dumbed down the minimum requirements for high school graduation to such a degree, graduating is not a matter of intelligence, but of willingness to show up on a semi-regular basis for twelve years in a row! (Don’t mean to get off on a diatribe about our education system – that for a later time.)

There have always been accepted and recognizable standards by which an orderly and lawful society exists. Most simply stated and embodied in the Golden Rule. Do to others as you would be done by.

We should not alter the circumstance to suit this ideal! But in our current mindset, we are altering the ideal……….it’s much easier. [a shameless paraphrase of G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy]

If the standards are too high…………lower the standards! That has become our society’s philosophy. And worse yet, nobody question’s it, or seems offended by it. It is accepted practice.

To further the point, Chesterton states: “As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partially realized. The modern young man will nerve change his environment; for he will always change his mind.

We have abandoned our belief in right and wrong, in black and white. Currently it seems, every situation, is judged by some vague shade of gray. The space between right and wrong is some vague moving target, dependent on the extenuating circumstances!

Is it really so difficult to adhere to the concept of right and wrong? Or is the idea of right and wrong an over simplified concept held by simple-minded people like me that lack the worldly sophistication and liberal broad-mindedness to grasp the full concept of all the extenuating circumstances that go into making such an evaluation?

Is this where we are? Is this what we have become?

Sadly I fear……….YES!

1 – I acknowledge, there are people genetically predisposed to obesity, just as black men are apparently genetically predisposed to hypertension and diabetes. However, being genetically predisposed, does not mean you are helpless to do anything about it, or hopelessly defenseless against it. — Burton

Copyright November 2015


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