Rights and Responsibilities

Regardless of the situation, we are responsible for how we respond. When I say we are responsible, I mean that I am responsible and you are responsible for how we individually respond…regardless of the situation.

This is called personal responsibility.

Yes, everyone has the right to feel your feelings and think your thoughts and it is your personal responsibility to how you respond to your feelings or thoughts. It is interesting to hear a culture talk so much about rights and freedom without understanding or displaying and personal responsibility of ourselves, our neighbors and our places. It seems that I am not alone in this way of thinking…

“While the Declaration of Rights was before the National Assembly some of its members remarked that if a declaration of rights were published it should be accompanied by a Declaration of Duties. The observation discovered a mind that reflected, and it only erred by not reflecting far enough. A Declaration of rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”― Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

I keep thinking about how do we respond to what we believe and feel are wrongs, injustices, unfairness, imbalances of power, government overreach, pollution, corruption of morals, failure of religion and/or what we believe is wrong with the world today, and I believe that the best response is for you and me to take personal responsibility for what we can control and what we can do.

At this point, we all should be asking “What is my personal responsibility?”

Interestingly enough, the answer to this question is not determined by what you do but by…who you are? Who are you? Are you a Republican, Democrat, American, Atheist, Christian, a consumer or a human being? At the deepest level… Who are you?

Yesterday, I was listening to Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Storey Mountain” as I drove into town. In this book, Thomas Merton repeats a foundational truth that I believe is true for all human beings…The beginning of love is Truth.

See, Thomas Merton was a Christian and as a Christian, he believed that Jesus was The Truth. Remember… Jesus called himself “The Truth.” It’s interesting how Jesus “The Truth” not only responded to hurt, harm, cruelty, injustices, hate, enemies and wrongdoings with Truth and Love, but he left us with this… 34But the Pharisees, hearing that he had rendered the Sadducees speechless, gathered together, 35And one of them who was a lawyer, testing him, posed him the question, 36“Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your reason. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments.”

This truth given by THE TRUTH means that everything depends on Love. This truth tells us that the best response that a human being can have in every circumstance and to every thought and feeling is with the personal responsibility to Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and reason and love your neighbor as yourself.

Think about it for a minute. How would this change things if we responded to our thoughts, feelings and our neighbors thoughts, feelings and actions with love. Remember “4Love is magnanimous, love is kind, is not envious, love does not boast, does not bluster, 5Does not act in an unseemly fashion, does not seek for things of its own, is not irascible, does not take account of the evil deed, 6Does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices with the truth; 7It tolerates all things, has faith in all things, hopes in all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails;” -The Bible

Is it obvious that our first response to just everyone and everything has not been the personal responsibility to love. Perhaps, the reason why is because we do not know how to love. We do not know how to love ourselves when we pick and choose which parts of us are worthy of our personal responsibility to encourage, inspire, nourish and help. Likewise, we do know how to love our neighbors when we pick and choose who our neighbors are and we ignore the truth that “Everyone is my neighbor.”

I believe it is reasonable and true to say that many of us do not love our neighbors because we do not even know our neighbors. Similarly, we do not love ourselves because we do not know ourselves and we don’t know ourselves because we do not know God or God’s love, and we do not know God’s love because we refuse the personal responsibility to tell the truth about ourselves.

Don’t believe me- look at yourself-look in yourself- do you love yourself-your whole self? Are you able to tell the truth about your failures, mistakes, regrets, shame, guilt, pain, disappointments, temptations, envy, hate and all you “sins.”

I don’t think we do. I don’t think we would have epidemics of diet-related disease and sickness, loneliness, depression, anxiety or division, if we as individuals) were responding to our feelings and thoughts with the personal responsibility of first telling the truth about them and then responding to them by loving the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your reason and loving your neighbor as yourself.

I guess what we have forgotten or failed to understand is that when we refuse the personal responsibility to love ourselves then we refuse the personal responsibility to love our neighbors, and when we refuse the personal responsibility to love our neighbors, then we refuse the personal responsibility to love ourselves. Consequently by refusing the responsibility to love, we are left without a foundation on which rights are fashioned, formed, kept and upheld? Now, more than ever, we are witnessing what kind of world will we have-if no one takes personal responsibility.

“It is impossible to improve the world if first the man does not improve.” -Plato

Today, I encourage you to think first not what your rights are but what are your personal responsibilities as a human being to your own self and to other human beings. I do believe that Jesus was speaking to human beings and to the human being design when he spoke about love, truth, forgiveness, mercy, judgment and healing. Likewise, when Jesus spoke, he spoke to human beings who were broken, despairing and hurting-whether they knew it or not. I seriously do not know one person who is not broken, despairing or hurting, and who doesn’t have the right to be loved and the responsibility to love. Because Love is what we are designed to be and Love is what we are designed to do.

If we want to participate in healing of human beings, the healing of relationships, the healing of the environment, the healing of our communities and even the healing of America, then we must take seriously-with all our heart, mind, soul and strength- the personal responsibility to LOVE God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The Good News is we have everything we need to Love because Love starts with remembering who we are and how we are naturally designed to be healthy, whole, holy and human beings. We are created to be receivers and givers of Love and Truth in order to imitate Love and Truth.

“Become imitators of God, therefore, like beloved children, And walk in love, as the Anointed also loved you and gave himself up on our behalf, an offering and sacrifice to God, for the aroma of a sweet fragrance.” The Bible

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