1. The state, quality, or fact of being responsible.
2. Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden.


Say what you want, I don't think responsibility is a burden. Call me old fashioned, but I believe what Joan Didion said, "The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs." Should it be surprising, then, that those who choose to view responsibility as a burden must paint elaborate masks to bring about a false sense of self-respect?

Responsibility is something that every good parent wants to teach their children. "We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until... we have stopped saying 'It got lost,' and say 'I lost it.'" said Sidney J. Harris. Would we deny our children the gift of responsibility by allowing them to "get away with it"?

Being a responsible person should begin at childhood. When we first make mistakes we blame our siblings, our peers, or nanimate objects. We either learn to say, "I did it, what can I do now?" or we don't. If we don't learn those lessons early we grow into adults who make the same mistakes time and again and people who are directly impacted by our behavior have less and less respect for us. We loose sight. We blame everyone else for our failures. We create a box for ourselves that can only be escaped with a key fashioned from responsibility.

So in parenting do as Abigail Van Buren suggested, "If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." Towards adults? I have no suggestion except to make your peers accountable. They'll either take responsibility for their choices or they'll throw a tantrum, walk away, and pretend nothing happened.

C'est la vie.

As to other things discussed here at The Temple...

Could one be compassionate without a feeling of responsibility towards others?

"'I must do something'always solves more problems than 'Something must be done.'" - Author Unknown

Could one befriend another without responsibility for one's words and actions?

"I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty." - John D. Rockefeller Jr.

How about wisdom?

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future." - George Bernard Shaw

How about love?

"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What if we are witness to gossip?

"We all participate in weaving the social fabric; we should therefore all participate in patching the fabric when it develops holes." - Anne C. Weisberg, Everything a Working Mother Needs to Know

Now I won't claim to have learned the ins and outs of responsibility as a child, but as an adult I've learned them the hard way. It makes me a better person and allows me to know who I am without running from anything simply because it is hard, uncomfortable, or scary. It allows me to be honest and open; likewise, it allows me to see when others have crossed a clear line and stand up for myself.

The ability to choose responsibility allows one to grow in ways that aren't otherwise possible.

I will close with Thomas Szasz who's social commentary explains it all too well:

"Why do children want to grow up? Because they experience their lives as constrained by immaturity and perceive adulthood as a condition of greater freedom and opportunity. But what is there today, in America, that very poor and very rich adolescents want to do but cannot do? Not much: they can "do" drugs, "have" sex, "make" babies, and "get" money (from their parents, crime, or the State). For such adolescents, adulthood becomes synonymous with responsibility rather than liberty. Is it any surprise that they remain adolescents?"