Privilege Precedes Responsibility

Privilege Precedes Responsibility

It’s funny how easy it is to allow ourselves to believe that our responsibilities are sources of stress. For example, a mother may see dirty dishes that are stacking up and a floor that hasn’t been mopped in weeks, and carpet that needs vacuuming and laundry that needs folding and lunches that need making and birthday presents that need buying, and dinner that needs cooking. Needs, needs, needs- so many things that I need to do something about! Ahhhh!

In moments like this where we might feel like we just have too many responsibilities and not enough time and energy it helps to understand something important about responsibilities- and that is what’s on the flip side of responsibility. If responsibility is one side of a coin- what’s on the other side?

There is a famous line from the movie “Spiderman” where Peter Parker is taught by his uncle “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Well, I’d like to change one word. Instead of power, use the word privilege.

“With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

But the reverse is also true- with great responsibility there must first be great privilege.

Responsibility can only exist if privilege exists first.

The mother that is feeling overwhelmed by all her responsibilities as a mother only has all those responsibilities because she is first privileged to have children that make such a mess and create so much for her to do. The father that is feeling like he has so much responsibility to provide for his family and set a good example and spend time with his kids, only has this sense of responsibility because he first is extremely privileged to be a father and to have kids to be responsible for. The same goes for any other responsibility we have.

There is a little phrase I like to use whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed by something I’m dealing with. The phrase is:

“I don’t HAVE to do anything. I GET to!”

This phrase reminds me that when I see things in their proper order, (privilege precedes responsibility), then whatever it is I was feeling I “have to” do can be seen as something I “get to” do because I am privileged. I get to clean up the toys for the third time today because I’m privileged to have kids that play with toys. I get to do the dishes and laundry because I am privileged to have kids that dirty dishes and clothes. I get to deal with a challenging situation at work because I’m privileged to have a job or a business.

Questions to Ponder

-What do I feel responsible for?

-How is each of those things I feel responsible for really a result of a privilege?