This is the third post in a series explaining my five core values.
Personal responsibility is the single biggest problem with our culture.
(http://punditkitchen.com/2009/09/11/political-pictures-here-bailout/)We sue McDonald’s when the coffee is hot - we ordered hot coffee. We (continue) to sue tobacco makers when our loved ones die of lung cancer - they smoked every day, they knew it was bad for them, and we never pressured them to stop. We sue our alma maters when we don’t get jobs - we graduated with low grades and no drive. Our parents pay for us late into life, and even find us jobs and negotiate our salaries - we would rather let them rule our lives than face the world on our own. Don’t even get me started on Social Security (I’m entitled to retirement!), health care (I’m entitled to… well, I don’t know, but ya’ll should pay for it!), or federal bailouts (I’m entitled to do stupid things with my money and make you foot the bill rather than facing any consequences!). If I were a fact-checking editor for the Bible, I’d have to rewrite Proverbs 19:15.
Laziness casts into a deep sleep brings me welfare money, And an idle man will suffer hunger live off your taxes.
Isn’t that sad?
Personal responsibility is the basis of trust. For me to trust you, I need assurance that you’ll be responsible with whatever I’m trusting you with - my money, my data, my truck, my future plans. Anyone want to take a guess as to how a relationship is formed? It’s by the repeated exchange of trust and responsibility. I go to the same jeweler here in town every time my watch needs a new battery or I want to buy a gift for my wife. I do this because he has proven in our past interactions to be reliable… meaning he has discharged his responsibilities to me in a satisfactory manner. His personal responsibility has brought about our (limited) friendship and economic rapport.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus explains these workings of trust. Luke 16:10 tells us what everyone knows - if you do the right thing in the little things, you’re much more likely to do the right thing in the big things. It’s something that every member of the human race values dearly - the ability to trust someone outside yourself. We’ll never find anyone (or anything) that we can trust perfectly except God, since everyone is human and will fail sometime, somehow, but we still all want to do it.
That’s why every society has valued personal responsibility. I can’t put my finger on exactly where the modern world lost track, but I think we’re forgetting how important it is. I know a lot of military people, and from them I can tell that our military men and women feel something called duty. What is duty? It’s personal responsibility taken outside of oneself. We feel duty to serve our country in war, or to call the police during a robbery, or to rescue a woman from a burning car or a child from a swift river current. We feel duty to provide for our families. We feel duty to share the Gospel. Personal responsibility is the thing inside us that makes us respond to that duty.
Personal responsibility is what gives us intentionality and self control… two-thirds of discipline. I’d argue that they’re almost the same thing, since if we have those two blocks, then perseverance - the third block - will come pretty naturally. As I’ve written before, discipline is one key factor in success in this life and the next. That’s why I value personal responsibility.