The Virtue of Personal Responsibility

People will always look for a reason to misbehave. We know the difference between right and wrong, so when we find an opportunity to skirt around the edges, we take it. We know that drinking until passing out is wrong, however, it is excused so often for college students that some people will go to college specifically for the purpose of testing their liver. We know that smoking weed is a bad idea, however, when at a rock concert, it can be excused. So, we light up a doobie. It is evident that we know these actions are wrong simply by the time and place in which we choose to indulge. It is not OK for a 40 year old practicing attorney to show up black out drunk when defending a client, which is why no one does that outside of college unless they are an alcoholic. The same is true for smoking dope. We even use the rhetorical question, “Are you high?” to indicate our displeasure with someone’s choices. Our unwillingness to take personal responsibility within our culture is an epidemic worse than any amount of drunkards or potheads could inflict upon our culture. We are so incapable of taking personal responsibility for our actions, that now we no longer take personal responsibility for our feelings.

The idea of the special snowflake is one designed to describe the condition in which a person finds themselves to be so unique that any action by another person that is different from what they themselves would accept or undertake, is considered to be offensive and it is the actor that must apologize, regardless of whether or not any harm was done. Your speech must be limited because your words and ideas offend me. This is the new cry of our activist youth. While some go to college to test their livers, others go to test their outrage. Keg stands used to be cool. Now, organizing protests and getting teachers and administrators fired is the new cool thing. Notches on your belt used to be about your sexual conquests. Now, they are about how many lives you can ruin by making false rape allegations. Neither scenario is good. I am merely illustrating a point.

I feel the need here to explain that I am not a rape apologist or a victim blamer. I have never drank nor smoked weed. I am probably very much a prude by most people’s standards, and I cannot count the number of times I have been told I need to lighten up and relax. It is a testament to the depravity of our intellectual culture that I need to justify my personal character in order that my words not be dismissed on account of my personal choices. It used to be that we valued the content of the argument over the quality of the person presenting it. Now, it no longer matters what you say, only the groups with which you identify as you are saying it. Pedophiles and child sex traffickers go free as long as they endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, while lifelong devout Christians get thrown under the bus for suggesting that fathers are equally as important as mothers when raising children. We live in a sincerely bizarre time currently, however, the pendulum is coming back. If we want to survive and have some influence on where it lands, we must take a stand. Determining where that stand should be is hard. Good thing for you is, I have a solution.

Personal responsibility.

When we do not take responsibility for our actions, we weaken our character and cheapen our self-worth. One excused poor choice leads to another, and the spiral of self-degradation lands us in a pit of our own self-hatred and worthlessness. When we excuse ourselves from the consequences of eating too much cake because it’s someone’s birthday, we start eating desert every night, even though we know it will lead to poor health. When we get blackout drunk because we’re in college, it makes us more likely to be heavy drinkers later in life, which of course leads to poor health. Lifestyle related diseases are the number one killer in the West, and they arise due to a lack of personal responsibility.

I know why it happens. Taking personal responsibility is hard. Turning down cake at the next employee’s lunch birthday party will make you look like the bad guy. Sure, you might be looking out for your own health, but you are also pointing out to everyone else there how indulgent and irresponsible their choices are. What’s worse is you are showing them how weak they are in the face of temptation when you so easily say no to what they are so clearly enjoying. Their brain is receiving dopamine from all of that sweet, sweet sugar. Their subconscious is telling them, you really shouldn’t eat this because it’s bad for your health. Their conscious is telling their subconscious, shut-up it’s Steve’s birthday and I don’t get cake all that often. And by telling them no thank you on the cake, you are saying, choosing my own long term health and wellbeing is more important than my immediate indulgence and denying that indulgence really isn’t that hard. This makes them feel like crap, so they make you feel guilty by saying you don’t like Steve, and they guilt you into eating the cake all because they don’t want to take personal responsibility for their own crappy choices.

If, however, people took personal responsibility for their choices, denying themselves cake wouldn’t be so hard. We are a strange species. We are pre-programed with a set of natural drives that help us live. In every other species, those drives are called instincts, and in our natural environment, those instincts would serve us well. We are programmed to seek out and indulge in sugar because in our natural environment that sugar is found in fruit, which is incredibly healthy for us. Our number one indicator for longevity is fruit consumption, and the more fruit you eat the longer you are likely to live. However, we do not live in our natural environment. We live in a world of our own making because we have that capacity. Now sugar comes in almost every man made food on the store shelf, so we must be diligent in our consumption of it, lest we succumb to illness. Denying cake should be easy, if we would recognize our own power.

In Christianity, it is a moral virtue to resist temptation. According to Aristotle, finding the middle between indulgence and abstinence is the good. In our current society, blaming others for the way their actions and words make you feel is the good, and becoming the biggest victim is the highest moral virtue. Personal responsibility is the antithesis of our current creed of oppression Olympics, and it is also the cure to it.

Each one of us is responsible for the choices we make, and for the consequences of those choices. I am responsible for the words on this page, however, you are responsible for the way they make you feel. I have chosen to write, you have chosen to react. The action of writing is my choice, your reaction is your choice. We are each responsible for our own choices, and no one else’s. However, if we are to live in a civilized society, we must hold each other accountable for the consequences of their actions. If my words were libelous, I would be responsible for libel. If your eating habits lead to heart disease or diabetes, you are responsible for your related medical expenses and shortened life. It is unfair to burden your neighbors with your mortgage payment when you forgot to earn the money for the bill.

There is great freedom to be gained from personal responsibility because it grants everyone that wields this strength great power. When you take responsibility for your actions, you do not require laws, governments, or police because you will police your own actions, govern your own emotions, and write your own code for acceptable human behavior. We know the difference between right and wrong, justice and equity, and good and evil. We must shoulder the burden of living by the code of personal responsibility ourselves, and then we can start to hold others accountable.

This is not an easy path to walk, but it is at the core of anarchy. A world without coercion, one in which everyone lives by the non-aggression principle, can only be achieved if enough people take personal responsibility. Stop looking to others for direction on how to live, what choices to make, what clothes to wear, and what food to eat at Steve’s office birthday party. You are better than that. You are greater than needing someone else to tell you how to live. You are a strong, self-determining, personally responsible, empowered individual, and you are capable of greatness. Go find it.

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