QA114 QUESTION: In your lecture [Lecture #114 Struggle: Healthy and Unhealthy], at one point you say, “I do not advocate a life in which you separate yourself from all ideas, groups, loyalties and causes. This would be isolation and even irresponsibility toward society.” What are our responsibilities to society?
ANSWER: Whatever you choose them to be, because if the responsibility is adopted out of a must and out of duty and out of outer authority, the negative feelings of resentment and hostility will often eliminate or make up for or spoil the good that is done by the outer deeds. If you feel a certain cause is dear to your heart, and you feel this is what you really want to work for, then this is your responsibility. If a person is still a child inwardly who does not want any responsibilities, before he can adopt them, he first has to grow up.
The responsibility toward society can take many different forms. It does not necessarily need to take the form in the obvious sense that this sentence may imply. It may take the form of whatever your work is, that you do it well. It may be to work willingly for the purpose of something that you wish to fulfill. It may be in your human relationships that you wish to spread love, goodwill and understanding.
It need not be a political party or a great society you belong to. You do not have to stand on a soap box and make speeches in order to fulfill a responsibility toward society. And I venture to say that anyone who is seriously concerned with his inner growth may do infinitely more in assuming a responsibility toward society than people who work twenty-four hours a day on some outer cause but who have hidden, destructive emotions, who do it out of dishonest or partly dishonest motivations.
To fulfill your role in society is often not half as tedious or difficult as it may appear. Man is always geared to think that if he does spiritually, morally and ethically the right thing, his life has to be an ordeal – that it is difficult and something he would hate. This is not so, my friends. It definitely is not so. The great life plan of spreading truth and love can be helped much more by an individual who simply furthers his growth, and then his immediate environment begins to react differently because of it.
For someone else, in addition to this, a greater role may be the right thing, because he feels it growing out of him. But this cannot and must not ever be a rule that you feel you have to do something, or a rule of what should be, or a ready-made rule that applies to everyone.
It is much more beneficial for society as a whole if you, for instance, simply recognize your childish desire for not assuming responsibilities for yourself or others. If you can acknowledge that, if you acknowledge your egocentricity and self-centeredness, this does more toward the furtherance of growth in yourself, and therefore in your surroundings, than hiding these factors. And therefore, in that sense, on that level, at that moment, you assume responsibility.
Responsibility may have many shapes or forms. For one person, it is a way of life that no one else would ever even evaluate as a responsibility toward society. With another, it is something more obvious, but it must grow out of you. And if in this respect, at this moment, there is in you a desire not to have responsibility and perhaps simultaneously a guilt for that, then this has to come out and be looked at. Then you are going nearer toward a real fulfillment of responsibility than by denying this and assuming tedious roles you merely do out of duty.