Duty vs. responsibility. Is there a difference?
You bet there is. And the difference explains the anxiety, neurosis and also many of the political differences we find in today’s world.
Duty is a mindless obligation. It’s an arbitrary edict set by another, usually without reason.
Examples of duty? “You must serve others”. “Self-sacrifice is noble and the ideal.” Why? No answer or reason is given. In fact, that’s the whole point: Mindless service without reason, regardless of the nature of the service or whom you’re serving. Dictators — in government or your family/personal life — are happy to impose duty on you. But that doesn’t make it rational, reasonable or intelligible.
Responsibility refers to something chosen. You take on a commitment or an obligation, and the responsibility is the price attached.
Examples of responsibility? You decide to have children, and it’s your responsibility to care for them until they’re able to take care of themselves. You decide to become a doctor, and you’re responsible to your patients. You decide to become a builder, and you’re responsible for constructing a safe and secure structure. Ditto if you decide to build elevators or bridges. You decide to become a business owner, and you’re responsible for your customers. It’s all voluntary, it’s all rational, and it’s all logical. That’s NOT the case with mindless duty.
People confuse duty and responsibility. Most often, they lump the two together and treat them as equivalent. As a result, they end up unable to distinguish between what they’re really responsible for, and what they’re not responsible for. They feel a duty to things they never asked to be a part of. As a result, they develop neurotic problems such as anxiety disorder, mood disorder, phobias and all the rest.
America was — and to some degree still is — the least duty-bound society in all of human history. It’s based on the personal pursuit of happiness. With that happiness comes personal responsibility. At least, that’s how America used to be. Not so much any more, as our welfare state and entitlement mentality go through the roof both fiscally and psychologically. But the only way for America to remain great and unique is for its citizens NOT to listen to the politicians (mostly on the Democratic side of the aisle, by the way) who relentlessly preach servitude, selfless service to others, obligation to the faceless masses as something “bigger than myself” and therefore automatically and always better. BS! Who really thinks this way? Not anybody with five minutes of happiness in his or her day.
The antidote to the neurosis, unearned guilt and unnecessary stress and sadness? Think of it this way: There is no such thing as duty. There is only responsibility. You’re responsible for the things you choose to do, that you choose to take on, freely and for your sake, first and foremost.
Yes, I know. You are responsible for your own life. Yet you never asked to be born. But the choice to go on living is a choice. Most people who don’t wish to live actually take the step of committing suicide. But there’s a slow and gradual suicide — a passive rebellion against personal responsibility — in the daily self-destructive behaviors of many people. Substance abuse comes to mind. A more subtle self-destruction is mindless conformity to the feelings of the group, instead of the responsibility that objective and independent rational judgment — all day, every day — requires.
That’s why liberty and freedom are so important to psychological health. If you don’t have liberty and freedom, you can’t credibly make the distinction between rational responsibility and irrational duty. It’s not plausible, in a totalitarian society, to think in terms of choices and responsibility — because in a totalitarian society you have neither. People from totalitarian societies understand this. Very few Americans seem to grasp this, which explains our mindless, idiotic and doomed descent into the false promises of socialism.
Unearned guilt is one of the most common psychological issues I see people confront in therapy. Unearned guilt is a false feeling of responsibility for something that isn’t yours to carry. Once you realize you’re only responsible for yourself AND for any commitments you willingly take on, you’re good to go for a happy, serene and rational life.
Nothing else will ever work.
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