August 30, 2006
I believe in the necessity of personal responsibility.
When I was younger I read the story “and then there were none” by the science fiction author Eric Frank Russel. In the story one of the characters finds his personal truth in the simple act of saying “no” and then not doing anything he didn’t want to. It then looked at the ramifications of following this seemingly simple rule.
The idea of using this simple “no”, or saying “I won’t” as a life tool struck a deep cord within me that has stayed with me all my life. It opened me to the concept that my truest freedom is the ability to say “I won’t”. It also showed me that I have the right to have others respect my decisions with the knowledge I will have to live with the results, either good or bad, of these decisions.
I have the right to say “I won’t” to my parents, educators, and mentors. If I say this I then run the risk of, and will have to carry the responsibility of being ill informed, poorly guided, or uneducated.
I have the right to say “I won’t” to involvement in friendship. If I do then I must accept that any loneliness is my own doing.
I have the right to say “I won’t” when asked to participate in anything from sports to government. But, by not participating, I inherently loose the right to criticize or level blame at what I have chosen not to do.
I have the right to say “I won’t” when unnecessarily told to keep my opinions to myself because I believe that I have the right to have my opinions respectfully listened to and considered. In return I must responsibly listen to, respect, and give good consideration to the opinions of others.
Finally I reserve the right to not be coerced, forced, or manipulated into action when I have said “I won’t”. And, just as importantly, I must not, in return, coerce, force, or manipulate when “I won’t” is said to me.
I believe that the simple act of saying “I won’t”, used when carefully chosen, and with the knowledge that I must allow others to say it back to me, regardless of my opinion, is the greatest form of personal responsibility I can exercise.
This lasting gift, taken from a simple story, has mesmerized me all my life. It has caused me great pain at times, and great joy at others. It has not been easy to live up to the expectations of the storyteller, and, truthfully, it was never meant to be easy. It is a belief system that leaves no one but myself to blame for my failures. In return it has given me many opportunities for personal growth that I never would have otherwise been able to experience.
I believe that if I truly try to live by this simple rule and decide with my heart, after considering the ramifications of my decision, to just say “no”, that I have exercised a unique gift, given to me, that must be treasured, held tightly, and never abused.
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