A fundamental principle of liberty is personal responsibility. You and I are responsible for making the decisions that affect the course of our lives. That means we also bear the consequences of those choices.
In the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
For our Founding Fathers one of the basic rights of people, the pursuit of Happiness, is the personal responsibility each one of us have for our lives. We have the right to choose the path we want to take in life. Along with that is the right to reap the benefits or bear the burdens of those decisions.
This is where people want to stop the train of liberty. They are fine with having the ability to make the choices, but they don’t want to pay the price for those choices. Most of us want to live a life that is free from consequences. Such a life doesn’t exist.
The emphasis of personal responsibility was not a new idea that began with the founding of the United States, but it has its roots in Christian tradition. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. (Galatians 6:4-5; NLT)
Think for a moment on what Paul wrote. Remember he wrote to people who were slaves, who were on the bottom of the social ladder, and who lived in extreme poverty. They did not enjoy the benefits of liberty and free markets that continue to effect the United States. Even in their situation, they still possessed the God given right to personal responsibility and making choices that would affect the course of their lives.
If we are truly serious about preserving our liberties then one of the most basic steps we can take is to be responsible for our lives. While it is true that some people have an easier life than other people, the reality of life for everyone is that life is difficult. We can’t sit back and think that a good and wonderful life will just happen to us. God designed life in such a way that it requires effort and risk. We will not have a happy and satisfying life any other way.
Notice what Paul wrote about satisfaction. He encouraged people to do their best in the work they were doing which would lead them to experience satisfaction. The satisfaction we need for life doesn’t come from the privileges that we have, but the effort and integrity we put into the job we are doing. Satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness are not about the privileges that we have, but about our character, hard work, and integrity.
We may have differing amounts of privilege, but what truly matters is not increasing our privilege, but being good stewards of the privilege that we have. Not only is this the way we will experience satisfaction with life, it is also the way we will preserve and increase the liberty and privilege that is available to us.
If our entire focus is on the fact that the playing field is not level, then we will miss out on the gift of life that God has for us, and that includes the rights that each one of us has because we are human. The playing field might be sloped against you, but if you never get in there and play the game you will never make any progress.
Ultimately you are responsible for your life. Don’t wait for government to make everyone equal (that will never happen). Instead, make the most of the opportunities that you have, and in that way create a life that will give you satisfaction and happiness.
One of our unalienable rights is personal responsibility. No one else is responsible for the condition of our lives. Yes, we might have limitations that prevent us from having the life of our dreams, but we can create a life that bring us satisfaction. Taking personal responsibility for our lives is the way we pursue happiness.