mother and daughter wearing masks

When many people think about the word responsibility they focus solely on personal responsibility. They say that in our individualized society people need to take personal responsibility for their actions and not rely on others—government, place of worship, or society at large—to bail them out when they encounter hard times. And while it is certainly important to take personal responsibility for our own actions, especially in preparing for possible unpleasant surprises, looking at it purely on that level is at best short-sighted.

Responsibility encompasses several levels. When you were aa child your parents probably held you partly responsible for the upkeep of your home. They would say things like “clean up your room,” “make your bed,” and they might assign you chores. Mine was mowing the lawn—ours was about a half and acre—not my favorite task. Your actions reflected positively or negatively on the family.

If you are married you have a responsibility to your spouse, even if you don’t have children. You need to treat him or her with respect, love, and honor. You can’t just be concerned with  yourself. And if you have children that adds a level of responsibility. You are held responsible for their welfare. 

When at work you are responsible for making sure your conduct reflects well on the company. You are a representative of the company. That was a lesson I learned well during my days, and nights, as a radio announcer. I was representing the station with my choice of music, my words on the air, and how I responded when the phone rang. It didn’t matter who the caller was or if they were calling at the worst possible time, When I picked up the phone I knew it was not me they were calling, but the station. 

These are pretty well known and accepted aspects of responsibility. But there is another aspect of responsibility that has been shunned or devalued by many. It is a sense of societal/global responsibility. To care for others around us who may not be as fortunate as us. Some may also not have been so wise and fallen on hard times. Whether due to poor decisions or unforseen calamities, it is imperative that we take time to reach out and help. And helping out the less fortunate in our society helps us all. Who knows when we might need a helping hand. And despite the myth of the self-made individual we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. As the poet John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of himself, for we are all a part of the whole.”

Photo by Foto Rojas