Guiding Light: Responsibility is freedom

-- Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati

It is true that some people in positions of power enjoy power without responsibility. But, have we really looked at what responsibility is? In my classes on the Gita, I always present responsibility not as blame or burden as it is usually used. Like we often say, ‘Who is responsible for this?’, in short, ‘Who is to be blamed for this?’. A middle-aged parent tells his teenage son, “Go ahead. Enjoy life. You will understand what responsibility is when you come to my age." Here, the word responsibility is being used as a burden. I say that "responsibility as your ability to respond to a given situation."

Responsibility is nothing but exercising your freedom of choice in any given situation. However bad a situation it is, there is always a choice of what you can do about it. Not doing is also a choice. When we say that we did not have a choice what does it mean? The consequences of every choice we see are so problematic that I don’t want to take any of those choices. But really speaking, it is only proactive, creative responses to a situation that really ensure my freedom. Exercising that choice itself is freedom.

Our situation of two months of lockdown is not a great situation. The lockdown is not an answer to the problem. It is only managing a problem, buying us time to upgrade our health infrastructure. So, if we have proactively and creatively upgraded it then we are in a better position to handle this health crisis. By exercising our freedom of choice, we have created greater freedom for us, so that we can lift the lockdown sooner and get the economy back on track. But if that is not done, then we are in a soup.

Therefore it is healthy to look upon responsibility as freedom of choice that you enjoy as a human being. An animal cannot choose what to have for breakfast – whether a cutlet or an omelette. But the human being, can! In exercising the choice lies a lot of human freedom.

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