As an educator and freelancer, one of the themes that pervades my career (and life) is that of responsibility (personal, institutional, social, etc.). A broad concept, responsibility encompasses how we act or react to external (and sometimes internal) stimuli (people, ideas, places) within some sort of moral (or ideological) framework. Our “sense of responsibility” is often guided by what we believe, what our values happen to be (or at least what we say they are).
For some, the term “responsible” is given to certain actions or prohibitions one experienced as a child. “Acting responsibly” is often conflated with acting out of guilt. At times, responsibility dovetails with obligation; at others, it can be extremely liberating. As a result of all of these guiding elements, responsibility is an incredibly subjective concept (one person’s fiscal responsibility is another’s frivolity, for example).
I tend to think of responsibility in terms of an action/reaction dynamic. I understand that everything I do produces some effect. I realize that, due to my human fallibility and factors I cannot control, it is impossible to consistently anticipate the “reaction” part of this equation. However, I do know that the more I learn about the world, the more I challenge my own perceptions (especially those I think are “right”), the more responsible I become. By understanding how my moral and social framework intersects with that of those around me, I become more aware the possibilities for the reaction my action could produce.
Following this action/reaction model, responsibility is the antithesis of remaining intrenched in one ideological framework. Rather, it is the process of constantly inputting, evaluating and massaging my understanding of the world around me so that I can be a better “actor” and “reactor” in my daily life.