Rights and Responsibilities

In the early 1980’s, while I was attending college in Canada, a national debate was raging about the newly written constitution. The debate over the partially written Bill of Rights was intense. People were debating what should and should not be included. Some felt that the American Bill of Rights was the template to follow, while others strongly opposed this approach.

As this debate raged, one of my professors notably started his class with the following comment, “What this country needs is a contract of responsibility, not a bill of rights.”

Every once in a while, I wonder how different our world would be if personal responsibility took precedence over the need for personal rights. In a world filled with rights, we talk about freedom of speech. In a world of responsibility, what we might say would be tempered by a concern for how words would be received by others.

In a world of rights, we have the freedom to bear arms and defend ourselves. In a world of responsibility we would never consider defending ourselves first. The needs and security of the other would come first.

In a world of rights, the individual becomes a mini-god. Everything is about me first and my own personal rights. Responsibility moves beyond the individual, and it shifts the focus to the good of the community.

Is it possible that most of the issues that threaten to destroy our communities, churches and country could be solved with a shift from a focus on rights to a focus on responsibilities?