Do we have a responsibility to other peoples’ welfare? Do we owe people anything? What is our responsibility, if any, to our fellow person?
It is a rare commodity finding people accountable, being supportive to their fellow person, who have the best interests of the people they are serving.
And what do I mean by support? Here, briefly, are a few things:
Support for one’s gifts, talents, etc. It’s more than financial.
In many cases, what we are meant to be takes the help of others.
There is no heavier burden than an unfulfilled potential.
Guidance for direction, focus, one’s calling. Life kills us unless we make something of our own. We need to feel needed, to be recognized for something. We need to know we’re making a difference. If not, does our existence really matter?
Wisdom for combating worries, fears, anxieties – to ease a troubled mind and an equally troubled heart.
Empathy, understanding, compassion. Our hardships become less burdensome when people show understanding rather then being judgmental.
Faith and love to nurture confidence and self-esteem when the latter items are at an all time low.
There are those who feel we should not be held accountable to their fellow person. So, let’s talk about accountability or the lack of it and if we have a responsibility to our fellow person.
Question: There is a shooting. A child is hit. No witnesses come forward. Are you angered?
Second question: A woman is assaulted. Everybody watches. Nobody helps out. Are you angered?
When we say no to accountability, aren’t we just as guilty as the above situations?
We wouldn’t walk away from someone who was in need of medical attention or in need of other help. But don’t we do the same when we say we are not accountable to our fellow person?
We are either helping or we’re hurting. We are either giving life or talking life away. Our weapon is our silence motivated by, in many cases, apathy.
We wonder about psychopathic criminals who have no feelings for their victims. But aren’t we just as guilty of the same thinking, the same feelings (though maybe to a lesser degree) when we have no feelings to those we could help out but refuse.
When we can alleviate someone’s suffering but don’t, we allow the sufferer’s pain to continue. Isn’t this as bad as deliberately inflicting pain on that person? The only difference, if there is a difference, is the degree of severity.
Here are some quotes from famous men about accountability. These words have very little meaning today.
John Donne: “no man is island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”
Martin Luther King Jr: “As long as there is poverty in the world, I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampart and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than 28 or 30 years, I can never be totally healthy, even if I just got a good check up at the Mayo clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way the world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”
Albert Schweitzer: “As long as there was a man in the world who was hungry, sick, lonely or living in fear, he was his responsibility.”
Taoism’s interpretation of the Golden Rule: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”
I believe one of the reasons why we don’t get involved is our lack of love for ourselves. In other words, if love were present, we’d get more involved.
Some quotes about love and accountability:
Ashley Montagu, Ph.D: “I will spell out in plain English what a loving human being is and what love is. It’s the demonstrative act towards others in which you communicate to them your profound involvement in their welfare, so that they can depend on you to stand by and minister to their needs. You will give them all the support, all the stimulation, all the encouragement for growth and development of their ability to be the kind of human being that you’re being to them.”
Erich Fromm: “the most fundamental kind of love which underlies all types of love is brotherly love – a sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being, the wish to further his life.”
However, there may be a problem. When we say that we love people, we give them what we think they need. Not what they really need.
For example, we see this with the religious right who want to convert the hurting into their way of thinking. It becomes a kind of control based on fear. And that’s not genuine love.
When we help someone, we give them the help that we think will work or what has worked for us. We help them on our terms, not theirs. We may, in fact, be doing more harm than good.
Help is an individual thing. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.
We must address the wounds of the hurting on their terms, not ours. Or it’s not love.
Thomas Merton addresses this problem: “the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
If we are to love we must allow him / her to be free, find his / her own path.
And those who don’t love may lack another component – faith. As Erich Fromm writes: “love is an act of faith and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”
And according to author Dr. Leo Buscaglia, in his book “Love”, “our first responsibility is to love ourselves. And man shall love others to the extent to which he loves himself.” “And man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”
Let’s get back to our original topic: accountability to our fellow person.
I believe in absolutes. Again, let me repeat: We are either helping or hurting. We are giving life or taking life away. No middle ground. The tragedy is we all want support; few willing to give it.
If we are not going to help / support our neighbor in his time of need, why should someone help us in our time of need? It’s the principle of the Golden Rule. And we all need to be shown that mercy, if we haven’t been shown already.
We were meant to be depended on one another, helping one another, meeting each other’s needs. We find such a concept in community, which, sadly, is rare.
Final two questions:
First, if you had a love one being assaulted, a bystander did nothing, what is your reaction to the bystander?
Secondly, you help your love one in the above situation. After you rescue your love one, would you have the right to assault the bystander for doing nothing?
Legally, no..But ethnically and morally?….
Ken works as a security guard. He’s a struggling writer of sketch comedy and pieces on spiritual issues. He wants to set up a non- profit comedy troupe for the community, entertaining in hospitals, drop-in centres, etc. He has established a troupe for psychiatric and physically-challenged communities to participate in. He is also interested in the plight of psychiatric patients and other poverty-related issues. Ken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org