A Bill Of Responsibilities

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ~Benjamin Franklin

It’s a lot easier to assert my rights than to act responsibly.

Earlier this week I described a minor but distasteful incident. I expressed regret for my inappropriate attitude of entitlement regarding a handicapped parking space. I received some interesting feedback.

One reader essentially told me I had no reason to apologize because people shouldn’t use those spaces if they don’t need them. Another said I really did nothing wrong because I kept my anger to myself. I appreciate the support, but I disagree.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant said. “In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so.”

Jesus proclaimed the same principle. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Matthew 5:27-28]

Attitudes and motives are more significant than legalities. No law requires me to regard others respectfully. In fact, I have the right to think poorly of others and to treat them rudely.

Athletes and coaches scream at officials. Politicians, even the President, are considered legitimate targets for derogatory outbursts. Drivers curse and offer profane gestures for perceived incompetence. Political pundits utter outrageous and inflammatory statements. These and many other verbal assaults are excused because we have the “right” to express ourselves. It’s an attitude of entitlement that begins when rights are asserted without considering corresponding responsibilities.

Perhaps our Bill Of Rights should be accompanied by a Bill Of Responsibilities.

Every individual deserves to be regarded and treated with dignity and respect. When I ignore that principle, which unfortunately happens far too frequently, I hope I’ll acknowledge my personal failure.

I hope I won’t hide behind my right to do what clearly isn’t right.

What would you list in a “Bill Of Responsibilities”?

Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it. William Penn

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Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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