the gift of responsibility
I’ve been thinking about trading in my car. I’d like something roomier, where I sit up a little higher. So I made a short list and imagined myself in those vehicles, riding down the road with a taller perspective. Yes, I would like that, I think. But then, on my mental drive, I pull into an imaginary gas station and realize, Wow, it costs $68 dollars to fill up one of these big vehicles!
Hmmm…. that’s a lot. Maybe, I don’t want that after all.
So I revise my search. I start looking for a 4-cylinder F-150 that gets 35 mpg. When I don’t find anything in a 25-mile radius, I widen the search to say, global. But, no matter how I configure the search, I find these unavoidable trade-offs. You can’t get a truck with a compact’s gas mileage and you can’t get lower gas mileage with a truck’s size. You have to choose.
But do I really? I could just keep perpetually searching, bouncing between the roomy truck and the small gas-efficient compact. I’ve bounced a lot in my life. Hesitating, changing my mind, waiting. I suppose I’m hoping to be rescued from having to decide. But then, even the decision to not choose is a choice. There is no escape, you have to choose.
Everything is like this, even small things like what to eat and when. And big things, too, like commitments to family and God. Despite your maneuvers to either avoid choice or to get someone else to do it for you, you end up choosing. Even if you pretend you aren’t choosing, you really are. And all those choices and non-choice-choices accumulate into the sum of your life.
But even then, you aren’t finished. You still have to choose how you will respond to your current consequence that is your life.
Jean-Paul Sartre used the phrase, “Man is condemned to be free.” He meant that once you pop into existence (not a choice), you cannot escape the necessity of having to choose from then on. You cannot escape the fact that you are responsible for your life.
As I consider that truth—I am responsible for my life—two categories come to mind: responsibility and freedom.
First, if I take responsibility seriously, I have to acknowledge how much I blame others or circumstances for my bad behavior and attitudes. Responsibility means that my behavior and attitude are my choices. Blame and excuse-making are attempts to escape responsibility. This is sobering.
Second, if I take freedom seriously, I have to take myself more seriously. God has given me a gift; He has given me myself. To receive this gift, I must embrace the power (that I alone possess) to shape my life into a meaningful form. Because I’ve been given a “self,” I therefore have a “self” to give. This is inspiring.
Responsibility and freedom are gifts that God has put into your hands! And these gifts represent the highest of all powers, the power to love. Wield it well. Wield it gratefully.