The Case for Personal Responsibility
Previously published on Dec 26, 2010
There has been a long brewing trend in our society to shirk personal responsibility for all of our woes by blaming other individuals, society, and anything that might impact us in a negative way. It has become common practice to simply throw up our hands and profess a given situation is beyond our control, no matter what we do, or did. There is even a tendency to profess our intentions to take responsibility then backpedal without honest self-reflection. A lack of personal responsibility, in turn, undermines our communities and society in ways that hurt generations to come.
On the other hand, there is also a tendency for individuals who are government, business, and community leaders to disavow their responsibilities in hypocritical pursuits that insist others take personal responsibility. As the commanders of key, influential institutes in our society and communities, their beliefs and actions do directly affect the lives of individual in very profound ways. These institutes can destroy, as well as help create, many of the opportunities we need for success in terms of financial gain, ethical and moral behavior, community togetherness, and social wellbeing.
An employee was once expected to show loyalty and commitment to his, or her, employer for the same in return. Since employers began looking at their employees and the communities in which they operate as interchangeable, and therefore expendable, employees have been taught fully investing their blood and sweat into their jobs, or even their communities, will only hurt them. Meanwhile, businesses have more and more come to expect tax incentives for supporting American communities while shirking their social responsibilities before asking for bailouts when preventable crises arise. We are then expected to chastise average Americans for doing things like abandoning their mortgages in order to game the system as businesses do.
As a society, we have also grown accustom to characterizing government action as pure interference then fully blaming government when anything goes wrong. Instead of honestly pursuing a proper role for government, we create an unhealthy relationship with public officials who must try to satiate both our whims and anger at the same time. Government cannot ensure our personal success nor can it materialize a utopian society through disengagement, yet a responsible government stocked with responsible leaders can help create opportunities for individuals, businesses, and communities to succeed.
Furthermore, it is often difficult to properly assess the causes of a personal or community failures in our modern world, because so many of us simply play the blame game while we immediately punish those who do actually take responsibility. As a consequence, situations where the fault mainly rests on the shoulders of others go unresolved, because we solely demand personal responsibility. Inversely, problems created by a failure to take on our own share of responsibility are also sure to linger since we are encouraged to blame others. In all, a failure to embrace our shortcomings and offer proper assessments lead to poor solutions, thus our society misses out on opportunities for success.
When social institutes neglect or reject their responsibilities to our society, opportunities for success grow far less plentiful. Working hard and acting responsibly in general means little in a world where the most powerful, more successful do not. One role of government is to ensure businesses act responsible and fulfill the needs of our society; however, it is the responsibility of individual citizens to demand responsible government through democratic participation. This means our society must ignore calls to let businesses self-regulate and government to disengage. Instead, everyone in our society needs to take a personal stake in the society we need to create.