The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 15: Responsibility

Previous: Chapter 14: Self-Knowledge

Responsibility is hard.

To be responsible is to be held answerable and accountable for my actions, because a full, objective account of what has happened needs to include what I did or didn't do.

To be responsible is to understand and accept myself as a cause of what happens in my life. Not necessarily as the only cause, but certainly as the primary cause. It can be difficult to remain objective about the degree to which I am a cause for any given event or its consequences, for I tend to attribute my successes to myself, and my failures to others and to external circumstances.

To be responsible is to govern my thoughts, my choices, my actions, and my feelings. Thus responsibility is a form of self-governance, and a precondition of freedom; for great freedom imposes great responsibility.

Responsibility looks back at what I have done, but it also looks ahead — for if I am responsible then I shall choose and act with the expectation that I might need to answer for what I do. Thus a sense of personal responsibility induces deliberation, caution, prudence, consideration, careful planning, even good manners.

When I am responsible, I walk a consistent path and I have a consistent aim in life. I have integrity, constancy, solidity, coherence, harmony, wholeness. By being true to myself and my principles, I become someone who is worthy of honor, trust, and respect.

There is much work involved in taking full responsibility for my life: I must learn and apply how to succeed in my chosen profession, how to maintain my health, how to save and invest for the future, how to defend myself and my family, how to be a good friend to those I care about, how to build a strong relationship with my partner in life, how to think clearly, how to make good decisions, how to be productive and creative, how to communicate effectively, how to cultivate my inner life, how to exercise self-control and achieve self-mastery, how to continually improve myself as a human being. Although it is tempting to think that I can depend on someone else to do these things for me — my family, my friends, a service I hire, a company I work for, a government agency, a charity that will help me in my time of need — the harsh truth is these tasks are primarily my responsibility and mine alone.

Next: Chapter 16: Respect

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