Liberty, Responsibility, Integrity

I have suggested here that liberty is the outgrowth and result of justice.  I believe true liberty is found when we bring ourselves into alignment with justice.  And, this can only be accomplished through moral responsibility and accountability.

The implications of this proposition are profound.  Let’s unpack it.

I understand moral responsibility to be the ability to respond on the basis of conscience, using personal judgment regarding our responses to the world around us.  And, I hope we will act with moderation, and base our actions on careful consideration of the principles of justice to the best of our ability.

We will not agree on many things, but moral responsibility requires that we think and act carefully with regard for our fellow human beings and the well-being of our communities.

A friend once pointed out to me that the meaning of “responsibility” is suggested in the compound word, “response-ability.”  Without this ability, justice cannot be realized and liberty has no purpose.

We heard from Viktor Frankl several weeks ago in a blog post entitled “The Resilience of Inner Freedom.”  Dr. Frankl emerged from his World War II ordeal in a Nazi death camp with the firm conviction that freedom can only be secured through responsibility.

Freedom,” he wrote, “is not the last word.  Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth.  Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.  In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.”

For many of us, seeking freedom in our lives is a gradual process of maturing, letting go of dependencies, and trying to make a go at life with what resources we can gather or create.

This much is meaningful for a time.  However, we soon begin to realize that the society in which we live, and the material limitations in our lives, impose themselves on us in uncomfortable ways.

Do we then give in to rebellion – or feeling sorry for ourselves?  Or, do we seek dignity in the face of limitation, assert control over our personal shortcomings, and engage constructively with the world around us?

Many of us find it necessary to construct the lives we wish for from the wreckage of past mistakes, our own and those of others, and are grateful simply for the opportunity to do so.  Even cleaning up a mess can offer a certain satisfaction.

Still, self-respect cannot wait for things to change.  We are each capable of responding to the world around us with dignity and creativity, and we must.  This requires initiative and constructive action.

Seeking to accept responsibility depends on our circumstances.  What I am suggesting here, however, is that a core responsibility underlies all others: This is the imperative to build and protect trust.

Why is this critically important?  Because ultimately all complex problem-solving depends on trust.

This is because, fundamentally, justice depends on trust.

Without trust, justice (and liberty) will remain elusive, and the fabric of this nation will continue to disintegrate.  Trust is the substance of integrity.  It will be essential for building the future.

A principled integrity gains primacy in our very identity, our character and way of being.  But, it can easily be squandered in a moment of carelessness.

So, there you have it: Integrity is the necessary quality of being; trustworthiness is the substance of that quality; and, responsibility provides the constructive action with which we make it so.

Finally, justice is the beginning and the end, the matrix that holds it all together.

To put this in another way, responsibility follows immediately from personal integrity and is the expression of it.  Social order and stability depend on this.  When responsibility is understood and applied to the challenges we face, progress is possible.  Otherwise the integrity of intention is lost.

There is no middle ground.  Either integrity and responsibility are wholly present or they are compromised.  Without them no civilization is possible.

Tom

A note to readers:  I wish to express my gratitude to regular readers, particularly on the Facebook page, for your active engagement and constructive feedback.  I could not reasonably proceed otherwise.  Please look for the next post on or about July 28.

Trust

People 13

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

–Stephen Covey

The Foundation of Trust

This blog has been exploring the requirements for rebuilding the foundations of the American Republic. We cannot wait for somebody else to fix things. It is time to stop complaining. We must each stand up and step forward to engage with those around us, regardless of our differences.

Together we need to determine commonly accepted principles and to address the needs of our local communities.

No, it will not be easy. But it must be done. The security of our families requires it, and in an unexpected emergency we will be in trouble without it. Neighbors can be loyal regardless of politics or philosophy. Indeed, where trust can be built neighbors can become dependable friends. But that will not happen without work.

We will talk more about this later, but the important thing to recognize is that when the going gets tough, relationships count. And, I don’t just mean next door neighbors, as important as they are. If we find ourselves under threat, direct or indirect, the last thing we need is neighbors down the road or over the hill who are an unknown quantity.

Here’s the thing: We are not just talking about forming acquaintances and friendships here. This is not about borrowing a cup of sugar over the fence. To rebuild this nation we need dependability. And that means trust.

Yes, well, in the midst of this crisis we find that trust is not something that Americans know much about. Mostly we do not believe in it any more. Therein lays a problem. And, it is a big problem.

Needless to say, we cannot simply start trusting people because we wish to be trusting. The human reality we are starting with is not trustworthy. Most of the people around us do not have a clear concept of what trust means, much less an understanding of why it is important.

So, building trust will take time and continuing attention. We may find it helpful to treat it as a learned concept, but it is not really that complicated. The difficulty lies in our willingness to take initiative, to be patient, to accept differences, and, most of all, to listen to others with genuine interest and curiosity.

This will not happen if we have a self-centered attitude. People can see through that. Our interest must be genuine, or the effort will fall flat. In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, Stephen Covey wrote:

If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.

Americans must proceed with purpose. Trust is about true understanding, dependability, and coming to accept one another as fellow citizens. And, it is a personal responsibility.

I think we can all see how the loss of trust has devastated this country. I hope we can also see why the rebuilding of trust is critical to rebuilding the nation.

And, once we have trust we must be ever vigilant, lest it slip through our fingers.

We must seek trust first for the sake of security in our local communities. But, America is our neighborhood and without stability across the land there will be little we can count on. Ultimately, by asserting the dependability of trust in relationships we will regain responsible governance, stabilize financial institutions, reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit, and form the basis for a vibrant civil society.

In the mean time, there is nothing stopping each of us from reaching out to the people around us, to become thoroughly acquainted as human beings and begin to rebuild the foundations wherever we are.

Without trust no foundation can be built and we are lost in quicksand.

Tom