Original Thought · Self Improvement

Rights and Responsibilities

“I have a right to my privacy” were the first words I heard on the radio this morning as someone who had been accused of possession of child pornography complained that his private life was being upturned and police and media were prying into his personal life.

The next story was about a group in Quebec challenging the governments plan to block Internet gambling sites in order to protect citizens from evil and preserve their gaming revenue. The group contends that their freedom of expression is reduced if they can’t access whatever they want on the Internet.

I was at a registry this week renewing my driver’s license when an angry man in his 40’s started shouting ” I couldn’t get on my flight because my license had expired and you didn’t send me a reminder notice.”

At yoga last night, there was a complaint that “the school didn’t tell me that my 5 year old would need to go into the gym for assembly, with all the other kids from his school. ” I have a right to know everything that could effect him”.


It is difficult for me to not be judgmental. Generally I have strong personal opinions that often don’t align with what I hear in my world. I believe that our rights should be defended at every turn. I should defend, you should defend, we should all defend. But with every right there is an associated and often unspoken responsibility. In fact in every situation, we bear personal responsibility for out actions and consequences. Rights can’t and shouldn’t absolve us of those responsibilities, they should encourage us to take both rights and responsibilities seriously.

Often the most vitriolic defense of ‘my rights’ is when someone feels that the treatment or service they received didn’t meet what they felt they needed. On examination, we might realize that we have been coddled by authorities in whose interest we have been absolved rather than involved in decisions and actions that impact us. I was aware, because I pay attention, that the government wasn’t sending out reminder notices to renew and marked a date in my calendar (well ahead of expiry) to visit the office and get it done. When incidents occur in my life where I am unhappy with the consequences, I ask ” should I/ could I have known? Could I/should I have done something else? Was I speeding? is my health condition a result of lifestyle choices?” Often I can’t change the consequences but I can accept that if “I did the crime, I should do the time”. Rather than being quick to shift blame to a scapegoat, it is more productive to accept evaluate my culpability and accept my role in the results. If atonement is needed – I like to get it over with quickly.

I don’t have any advise for those that see the world differently other than to suggest that sacred texts have been offering thoughts like “why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” for thousands of years. Maybe it is time to pay attention to the words and the log.




Accidents happen. Do they? The idea that something happens without being a correlation to or cause from something seems shortsighted. While incidents occur without that being the intention it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have predicted, shouldn’t have expected or can recognize in hindsight. When two vehicles collide at an intersection, it is seldom from the intention of one or both of the drivers. It may be because either or both were inattentive or distracted. They didn’t notice or react to road conditions, mechanical safety, or their surroundings. Possibly rules of the road were ignored, disregarded or not applied. As a consequence, the two vehicles, their drivers and any passengers attempted to occupy the same space at the same time and sustained damage to either or both and possibly injury to the passengers and drivers.

In the longer view, the drivers’ mood, health, experience were contributing factors to the crash. An driver in his eighties is moving down a lane in a parking lot when another operator is backing out of a stall. Driver two is in reverse and doesn’t check his surroundings thoroughly before and during the maneuver. The rear of his car contacts the first vehicle on the driver’s side front fender. The ’cause’ seems obvious and the law seems to always assign fault to the car that is backing up. But if the driver of car one was paying closer attention and had quicker reaction times the collision may have been avoided by reducing speed, stopping or steering out of harm’s way. While the ’cause ‘ of the incident can be assigned there are most often numerous associated and mitigating circumstances and conditions.

If I take an action that creates unexpected consequences (I have often), are the consequences really unexpected or did I jump to a conclusion (probably) or not consider enough variables (likely). Was my level of concern not significant? was I feeling upset, sad, confused because of something else that occurred minutes, hours or days before? Am I to be absolved because I didn’t know something I said would hurt your feelings or cause you pain? Am I still involved if I should have known even if I claim that it wasn’t my intention? If I am insensitive and your hyper sensitive one day and I say something or act ‘teasingly’ and you take offense, am I responsible? Even if the same event happened a week ago and you laughed?

My contention isn’t that the vehicles crashed or I caused someone pain intentionally (although that is possible and does happen) but that that there is a complicity that is wide enough to be shared. Every action or inaction, every word or moment of silence, every verb or noun chosen has consequences. I can’t or maybe we can’t wrestle all of the hundreds of implications but that doesn’t let me off the hook. When I am face with an opportunity, I need to consider some of the possible ramifications. How will this decision impact others? Am I reasonably convinced that what I am going to say is necessary, true and helpful? Do I remember shoulder checking before changing lanes or should I check again? Was I concentrating on something else or just not focusing when I stumbled and fell while running?

For me, this isn’t about blame. This isn’t about a legal position or a moral imperative. For me, it is about recognizing that in our very big world our small actions have consequences and ripples of consequences that flow away from the moment. I get to choose to smile or frown, to be cheerful or gloomy, to encourage or deride. Even when it seems inconsequential, my choice can leave someone else better or worse. If better, how does that flow throughout the day to other incidents and people? If someone flips me the bird because I cut them off (my bad) and I pull an ‘if only’. ” If only you had let me in when I turned on my signal” is my day better or worse. Rather if I think and acknowledge that I should have planned better, waited my turn, and/or signaled my intention better could the moment have transpired differently? What about the next interaction? The next time someone wants to merge?

As in most of the stuff I consider, it is easy to say what is the right thing to do but harder toi actually do it with consistency and maybe some courtesy. If I begin anew today, maybe I will get better and be better and make my world better.




I attended a webinar this week presented by Joanne Connell PhD based on her work and book ” Flying without a Helicopter: How to prepare young people for work and life”. As a parent a child development expert she asserts that parents are doing their children a  disservice by overprotecting them from the world and never letting them fail. When asked ” How early should parents be letting their children struggle and fail in order to succeed?” she responded “from birth really”.

I have long been concerned that children are being raised without a sense of consequences. They seem to pass not because they succeed but because their feelings can’t be hurt. They try something once and give up because “they don’t like it”. “Parents are following advice on how to sculpt their children into the perfect applicants before their children are even born. The problem is that the mold the parents are working from does not generate young adults who are able to succeed at work—with or without the coveted college degree. This problem is growing, not declining, with today’s hyper competitive, helicopter and lawnmower parenting trends.”

Thanks to Weaving Influence for hosting the webinar and providing these links.
Here is a link to the recording of the webinar for you to view or review at your convenience.
If you enjoyed the webinar, I encourage you to buy a copy of her book TODAY. It’s available in hard back, paperback, or Kindle.