Assuming responsibility

One of the most baffling and frustrating problems of our modern times is how to teach responsibility, to instill within the members of our society a sense of accountability.

All around us we see the results of an era where the idea of individual responsibility to others is, if not derided, at least ignored. The fruits of the "me generation" litter society, from graffiti-covered walls to whole families abandoned by those who should have been caring for them. The bill for all this focus on self has come due, and we are appalled at its size.Perhaps "responsibility" is a word we need to reintroduce into our conversations. Embracing that word, and its cousins "accountability," "dependability" and "obligation" marks our passage from childhood into maturity. Being responsible means being able to distinguish between right and wrong, being able to think and act rationally, and thus be held accountable for our behavior.

To be responsible means to step forward and readily assume our obligations. It's not hard to find them. Some of the responsibilities we have are profound, some mundane. For example, we are responsible to:

Support and teach our families. Whatever our position in the family, whether child or parent, nephew or aunt, we have a responsibility to ensure that the family functions together in an atmosphere of encouragement and love.

Support the Church. Assignments and callings will come and go throughout our lifetime, and we are responsible to fulfill them with care, intelligence and testimony.

Support our country. Sharing our talents, paying our taxes, understanding the issues, contributing our insights are all needed before the government can fulfill its obligations.

Speak out and participate. We cannot sit life out; it demands our participation.

Be a productive member of our community and society.

Pay our bills; clean up our homes, tidy our yards, pick up litter in our neighborhoods, avoid defacing our state; and help our neighbors.

Share our thoughts, at work, home, Church, school. Others await and rely on our insights and experience.

Honor our parents, first as children, then as adults, and perhaps finally as caretakers.

Allow others to be themselves and not copies of ourselves. To not judge their acts with our incomplete knowledge.

Avoid bigotry and teach all around us that God is no respecter of persons.

Help solve problems, and not create them.

In short, be mature.

The list of responsibilities and obligations can grow very long, indeed, if we sit down and try to enumerate them. The truth is, much of what we do in life depends on working with others.

Responsibility - the acts of individuals willing to step forward and perform their service - is the glue that binds our society. What if no one accepted responsibility and we could depend on no one besides ourselves? We would turn on our taps and no water would come out. We would go shopping, but likely not find the food we need for our families. The lights wouldn't work. The police wouldn't come to our aid.

Whose obligation is it to teach responsibility? The answer is all of us. Clearly we all have a profound interest in ensuring that the lesson is learned well.

And clearly, the acceptance of responsibility is also a cornerstone of the gospel, which throughout the span of man's existence has emphasized that we are responsible for our actions - not only before men, but before God.

President Ezra Taft Benson, who learned the lessons of responsibility and dependability as a young child, ties responsibility into freedom. He told students at BYU-Hawaii: "Let me tell you why man will never solve his most basic problems without recognition of spiritual law and obedience thereto. It comes back to the truth of who man is. He is a son of God. As such he has within him an innate need to be responsible and accountable for his own actions. He can only be accountable if he is free to plan and make decisions." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 84.)

And in a speech in Tokyo, President Benson noted: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a body of organized listeners but a group of organized workers, and we grow best by taking responsibilities and entering into activity. So every person in the Church who is willing and faithful and worthy is given the opportunity of taking responsibility and taking positions of leadership, and by so doing they grow toward perfection." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 485.)

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