Responsibility and Obligation
To be a human being is to be in a state of tension between your appetites and your dreams, and the social realities around you and your obligations to your fellow man. ~ John Updike
I have these moments when I just get so incredibly fed up with all of the obligations and responsibilities that I have. When I’m just tired of being beholden to others. Then after a minute I remember, in fact, I have no responsibility or obligation to anyone. Any obligation or responsibility I have, I have because I’ve chosen it.
I know, you don’t believe me yet, so let’s get into it. Of course you have an obligation to your parents right? No you don’t, they chose to have a child, and if you have children, so did you. So you chose to create an obligation to raise, feed, clothe and educate that child. Why would your decision to do that obligate that child to do anything for you. Now, for most of us, we choose to feel obligated to our parents. My mother, a single mother who raised three children, carried a burden that she had not planned on taking on, being a single parent. Given the sacrifices she made in that role, I’ve decided to take on an obligation related to her. If I had decided not to be obligated to her I wouldn’t have one. I don’t have the same obligation to my father. No one and nothing has come down from the sky and forced me to have one to him, it’s simply our choice.
We choose these obligations in our life, the decisions and actions of obligation are solely within our control. Now, as we’ve discussed many times, every action, and inaction has a consequence. As much as we are happier when we ignore them, we often feel pressured by social norms and expectations. So yes, if you decide you have no obligation to your parents, your siblings and society may feel negatively toward you for that choice, but you do have that choice. Very often we feel hemmed in because we’re not willing to pay the price for choosing not to be obligated when society feels we should have one.
So if you’re feeling over obligated, if you are sick and tired of being responsible to others, remember you have a choice. There will be costs and consequences, but you can choose to pay those, instead of being obligated. And like with many things in life, what should drive your choice is a cost-benefit analysis to determine which choice is best.
One place we may have the least amount of control in terms of obligation is at work. This is one place where there is something that controls our obligations and provides consequences. Your job description and evaluations. At work you’re obligated to do certain things and your evaluations are there to enforce that you meet those obligations. So I understand why many of us feel very overwhelmed in that environment. However, ultimately, even at work, you’ve chosen that obligation. Although it often seems daunting, you can quit your job and get another. I know, given the choices I’ve made in my life, I typically quit my job every three years and take time off to travel. It’s always a little bit frightening, you worry about how hard it will be to get another job. But in the end, I always have, it’s always worked out. So you too have that choice, it just takes thoughtful planning and you could choose to leave your job as well.
So when I have those moments of feeling overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities and obligations I stop, realize it’s all a choice and that helps. But I’ll let you in on a secret, because it really all is a choice, I have a little fantasy. I think about the fact that there really is nothing stopping me. I can load up my car, empty my back accounts and just drive away. Sure, that’s when that cost-benefit analysis thing usually keeps me from doing just that, but I could if I wanted to, and that’s enough to make me feel a little better about my life. Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane