The phrase ‘ meet their financial obligations’ has been in the news and it set me to a pondering.
Civil law suggests that there are pure and conditional obligations. “Every obligation whose performance does not depend upon a future or uncertain event, or upon a past event unknown to the parties, is demandable at once.” There are no conditions when the obligation will not be met. I have wrestled to find an example where the circumstances don’t impact the outcome; where unexpected events and uncertainty aren’t part of the reality. Does that mean that all obligations, including moral, are conditional? I am not ready to posit that thesis yet but am wondering about how we decide if there are absolute, pure obligations.
If a man borrows money from a bank to buy a home, isn’t the lender accepting some risk? If the man has tragedy upon tragedy heaped upon him and he is unable to meet his financial obligation so the lender’s bottom line isn’t impacted, how do we proceed? Is there a moral obligation on the borrower to repay? Is there a moral obligation on behalf of the lender to forgive? Is there are shared obligation to negotiate in good faith?
Do we have obligations in our relationships? Is the expectation of reciprocity and obligation that needs to be honored? I drive a friend to the airport, help her move, listen to her troubles, and provide an employment reference. Is she obliged to do something for me?
Do we have an obligation to obey the laws of our country? Under all circumstances even those we can’t imagine? Are there circumstances where the not being obliging is the high ground?
What are you obliged to do? Why?
Feeling curious today,
2 thoughts on “Obligations”
Obligations, from my perspective, are a contract and honoring that contract is to be integrity. Having said that, I found myself in circumstances where honoring the contract, meeting the obligation was not going to be feasible and this is where forgiveness enters the equation. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that things could have been different,” said Michael Bernard Beckwith. But we can’t go back and change things, we can only deal with what is in front of us. Letting go of assigning guilt over it is sometimes (usually) the most constructive way to move forward. We will always move forward, the question is are we doing it with love or resentment. I always think we should choose love. Sometimes that means forgiving the debt; sometimes it means renegotiating. An “obligation” only works if the person/entity obliged decides they are willing to honor it. If they aren’t, then there is little to be done. Sure, there can be repercussions, but those that have given up from the weight of a burden don’t generally care. If I decide that I will not honor my obligations, you can’t really make me honor them. You can encourage me towards integrity, but you cannot force it down my throat. Loving kindness is the answer, in my estimation. My two sense.
How does this apply to the global situation?, I have no idea. I deal with individuals. I don’t know how to change anything other than to teach those who cross my path and want to learn.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” `Margaret Mead
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