This spiritual part of us wants to get beyond appearances to its deepest yearnings for love, truth and beauty.
It cares about that which is beyond; that which is more than itself. This is why it is drawn to love, truth and beauty. Where has this part of us come from and what does it look like? When we explore the tie up between our conscience and our spirit, we also see the source of the delightful impulse that prompts us to move from self-absorption toward that which we – unlike the animals – recognise as good and true, and beautiful. This is where that unique human phenomena called awareness, choice and responsibility come into play.
The unique human capacity for a sense of responsibility
Richard Court on becoming Premier of Western Australia asked his father Sir Charles Court who’d previously been a long serving Premier of Western Australia, ”What is the secret of political leadership?” His father replied “Remember son, leaders look for responsibilities; leaders accept responsibilities; and leaders meet their responsibilities.”
Our uneasy relationship with responsibility
In J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we come across this dialogue ”I feel I owe you another explanation Harry,” said Dumbledore hesitantly. “You may, perhaps have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect?” He went on to say,”I must confess that I rather thought you had enough responsibility to be going on with.”
Many of those who hunger for power, fail to realise that with real authority comes the burden of responsibility. While authority enhances the ego, the burden of responsibility confronts the ego with inevitable fear and anxiety. It produces stress, the kind of stress that can make the most strong and courageous, buckle at the knees. However, from procrastination to avoidance the ego has a multiple arsenal of ways to distance itself from the burden of responsibility.
Animals may have highly refined instincts, but these are not the same as a value based sense of responsibility, that is distinctively human. The unique human capacity for responsibility is one of the most remarkable features of the spirit’s role in the human psyche. Have you ever noticed our complex relationship with responsibility? It’s fascinating to observe how profoundly we grow when we learn to handle responsibility consistently and well.
Managing responsibility develops esteem and can repair damaged esteem.
Helping children learn to carry appropriate responsibility well, repairs and develops self-esteem. On the other hand most of us, almost as a reflex, are inclined to distance ourselves from the pain and stress of accepting the burden of responsibility for failure of our own behaviour? If we are successful in something, we are quite sure it is because of our gift, our genius. If we fail we are tempted to make an excuse or lie. We quickly look outside of ourselves for someone or something external to blame; may be a bad teacher we had at school, bad parenting or some structural injustice.
The capacity for responsibility is often a sign of spiritual maturity.
We often use “it” language to distance ourselves from the stress of personal responsibility. If we drop a piece of crockery we’re drying with the tea towel we are inclined to say “It slipped out of my hand,” rather than “I dropped it.” If we miss the train we’re likely to say “It went without me,” instead of “I didn’t turn up on time.” We have the unique capacity to accept and carry significant responsibility, but too often we use our intelligence to protect our ego by avoiding, denying and excuse making. These regular patterns of behavior become obvious to others and affect trust.
We can’t see our own behavior – the predicament of our personal existence
One of the most embarrassing aspects of our personal existence is that we can’t see our own behavior and how it impacts others. We always judge ourselves by what we see of our motives but we tend to judge others by what we see of their behavior as we read it through our filters.
We all have significant blind spots – things that other people can see about us but we are blind to. It requires an intense commitment to truth, and the support of loving honest relationships, to grow beyond our personal delusions.
The unique aspect of our humanity to which our spirit brings life
If as Elihu said, “It is the breath of God in a man, the spirit in a man,” that gives us our unique capacity for seeing and knowing, where did it come from, and what are its characteristics? What are the things that inspire personal responsibility and develop our individuality?