April 11, 2014
Can you imagine our society if every person had an attitude and practice of responsible self-government? Or even if most did? How would it be if each person took responsibility for his own actions? How would it be if everyone considered the effect of his actions on other people?
Responsible self-government was God’s original purpose and plan for us. We are designed to be self-governing creatures. But something broke.
It may sound trite to say this, but there was a time when two persons could make a verbal agreement, shake hands together, and it was done. That kind of contract was more reliable – more sure to be carried out – than ponderous multi-page legalese piles of paper are today. Isn’t that because we have lost a sense of personal responsibility and integrity? We have become a nation of blame shifters and responsibility avoiders.
Let me give you a couple of examples from our lives. We live in a townhouse which we bought in the late spring of 2013. Our signed agreement stipulates that the seller will put up a six-foot cedar fence along the north line of the property, as a condition of the sale. The sellers agreed to this, in writing, signed and notarized. There was a time frame put on it. It was to be completed by the end of August.
This is April 2014. There is no fence. My attempts at communication last summer fell on distracted ears. When I was finally able to talk to someone about it, that person gave me a string of actions or non-actions by other people who prevented him from completing what they had agreed – in writing – to do. While I realize things can “come up”, there was no detectable urgency to get the job done.
As spring arrives this year * I surmise the fence will get built only if I doggedly pursue it. Yet, they signed a legal contract, putting their names to it. Written contracts or not, such agreements depend on the people who sign having integrity. Contracts don’t have the value that they used to have, because integrity has lost favor in our culture. Frankly, I’d rather have a handshake with a responsible person of high integrity. It’s a lot less time-consuming and saves paper. Plus, action would follow.
Another example concerns two across-the-fence neighbors who have dogs. They (the dogs, not the neighbors) have incessant dog conversations – hours at a time. Our neighbors seemed oblivious to the fact that their dogs exist. Not wanting to be a complainer, I put off bringing the issue up for quite a while. Finally, as the obnoxious cacophony grew more frequent and sustained, I wrote a carefully worded letter to each of them explaining our concerns, and the nuisance that the dogs often are during the week. To their credit, each of them responded fairly soon. One called me to talk about their pets and the other emailed me. One said to please call or text them anytime that I noticed the excessive noise. The other hinted that he wanted to do the right thing.
That is fine, as far as it goes. At least they acknowledged my concern and were gracious enough to be open to further communicating about it. But subtly, they put the responsibility for policing their dogs on me.
My wife and I do not have pets for specific reasons. We do not want the demands on time and finances that it would take to responsibly care for them.
We had a cat once. She had a very sweet personality, and we enjoyed her. We took care of her. We never considered that someone else needed to take on themselves the obligation to do so. When our allergy reactions to this little animal became too intrusive, we handed her off to another responsible owner.
We have no compulsive desire to police dogs that belong to someone else. Actually, we have no desire to do so at all. While I appreciated their gracious enough responses, they subtly took the responsibility for pro-active monitoring and correction of their pets’ behavior off their shoulders and transferred it to mine.
I am sure you experience the issue of abandoned shopping carts when you go to the store. Evidently many people believe it’s someone else’s responsibility to replace the carts.
Can a society flourish and prosper if it bases itself on a ludicrous fundamental worldview that “nothing is my responsibility”? That same worldview looks to centralized government to take care of our every need, and to subsidize our irresponsible choices. This is burdensome to everyone.
“Responsible self-government” sounds so wonderful, and yet so far in our distant past.
Do you long for it as much as I do? I thought so.
Talk to me. How do you practice responsible living?