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 or think and it is your personal responsibility to how you respond to your feelings or thoughts. It’s interesting to hear a culture talk so much about rights without the understanding that there is no such thing as rights without personal responsibility. 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 to be wrongs, injustices, unfairness and really EVERYTHING that is wrong with the world today, and I believe that the best response is with personal responsibility.

But what is my personal responsibility?

The answer to this question is determined by one thing…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 to 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 “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.

How would that 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 we do not respond with 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 to say that we don’t love our neighbors because we don’t know our neighbors. Similarly, we don’t love ourselves because we don’t know ourselves and we don’t know ourselves because we don’t know God or God’s love, and we don’t 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.

If we refuse the personal responsibility to love ourselves then we refuse the personal responsibility to love our neighbors. By refusing the responsibility to love, what rights do we really have? And 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 not what is your right but what is your personal responsibility 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. 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.

If we want to participate in healing of America, then we must create the space by taken seriously-with all our heart, mind and strength- the personal responsibility to TRUTH and to LOVE God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

You have everything you need to start this process because this process starts with Truth.

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