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A Crisis in Personal Responsibility, a "Defect in Private Duties"

By Chris Pelicano (bio - articles - email) | Jul 06, 2012

Samuel Johnson said, “Almost all the miseries of life, almost all the wickedness that infects society, and almost all the distresses that afflict mankind, are the consequences of some defect in private duties.”

No matter where we start to look at our present situation—personal life, family life, work life, community life, cultural life, national or international life—we can see (if we look) a direct connection between a personal neglect in one's duty and a specific consequent hardship. What is more, compounded neglects of duty (especially in the name of remedy) compound the consequent hardships.

This cause and effect should be very obvious. In fact, it IS obvious and deep down we know it is—but we are in some form of denial. We don't want to see the truth. We don't want to own up to our part. We don't want to take responsibility for our actions. We don't even want to think about it. But, wait! That denial is itself a failure to carry out a private and fundamental duty: to be human... to be responsible.

Human free will implies an essential necessity and capacity to choose and an innate personal accountability for the choices we make. Say, yes, when you mean yes, and, no, when you mean no—beyond that are evasions, denials, excuses, and rationalizations... and the long hard train wreck of wretched consequences that inevitably follow the neglect of private duty.

The rest of Samuel Johnson's statement provides the remedy, “Likewise, all the joys of this world may be attributable to the happiness of hearth and home.”

Why “hearth and home?” Because the personal duties of home and family life are most within one’s grasp (most “doable”) and are most essential, most effective, and most profoundly positive in their consequences. So, it all boils down to personal responsibility, which begins in the individual human heart and will—and in the nest of responsibility, the family home.

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