On Responsibility and Meaning

Feeling disappointed, unhappy, or outraged is an opportunity to notice what seems wrong to you. Knowing what seems wrong is another opportunity. It’s an opportunity to take responsibility to set it right. And it’s in this responsibility that meaning is to be found.

No Responsibility for me!

When you notice things that seem to be wrong you generally have two possibilities. First, you can take responsibility for improving them, potentially setting things right. Second, you can abdicate this responsibility. The reasons for the latter are manifold: taking responsibility for things is often risky, difficult, and externally unrewarding. No wonder then that you often abdicated responsibility.

The Treasures of Taking Responsibility

But, if you take responsibility and try to improve what seems wrong treasure awaits. This treasure comes in the form of self-respect and self-esteem from working on and accomplishing genuinely difficult tasks. It also comes from being more valued at work because you solve difficult problems that nobody else wants or can solve. Lastly, what often awaits you is the possibility to find deep meaning in the difficult things you work on and that is responsibilities’ most valuable treasure.

Meaning Through Responsibility

If you take on the responsibility to solve serious problems you’ll be engrossed in something worthwhile. You’ll also be working on something difficult which will improve your self-respect. Ultimately, the sense of meaning that you’ll discover when you are genuinely involved in making something better is your ultimate reward because it will buttress you against the suffering intrinsic to life. That’s much better than avoiding responsibility and difficulty altogether.1)

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