Personal Responsibility and Independence

What if someone said to you, “Look, you’re female, and I know that you can’t take care of yourself. Let me take care of you.” You might respond in one of several ways:

If you are a person who thinks you bear no responsibility for your life; if you have no dignity or self-respect; if, like water, you take the path of least resistance, your answer might be: “O.K. Take care of me.”

If you are saturated with self-doubt; if you fear tomorrow; if you answer life’s challenges with “I can’t” more often than “I can,” you might respond with, “What if he’s right? What if I can’t take care of myself?”

If you greet each day with anticipation and enthusiasm; if you believe in yourself and your abilities; if you look at problems as challenges to be met and conquered, your answer will likely be, “I don’t believe you. I can and I will be independent.”

These responses come from the core of one’s being, reflecting attitudes caught in the home and elsewhere. For little people learn from, and imitate, big people in attitude as well as actions, and they are “in class” every hour of every day.

Do Mom and Dad show love, affection and respect to each other, to family, to friends? Do they react calmly to crises, or do they shatter when troubles arise? Do Mom and Dad do everything for the children, or do they encourage self reliance? Do they listen with an open mind, or are they too busy or rigid to hear? Do they share time with the family, or is their priority work and activities away from family?

Re-read the first paragraph; but instead of “female,” insert “handicapped,” “a victim of abuse,” “lacking in self-esteem,” “poor,” “young,” “old.” Now you have the formula for the “government-will-take-care-of-me” syndrome, and it is destroying this nation.

We look at animals in a zoo, surrounded by concrete, with nothing to do except wait for the next meal to be handed to them, and we feel shame and compassion. We want them freed to independence. They need to hunt and forage and face challenges and escape the predator’s grasp. It is not a pretty sight for humans to watch, but both are better — the mountain lion and the deer — because of their predator/prey relationship which keeps them quick and stealthy and alert.

Why, then, don’t we see that humans encased in public housing, or discouraged from working if they are to qualify for welfare, are lacking far more than financial security? The system which doles out money but requires no job; which gives, but asks no commitment, no responsibility in return, changes potentially productive people into spiritless, pessimistic shells of humanity.

It is in learning to perform our best in school that we achieve self-esteem. It is in relating successfully with others that we gain self-confidence. It is in meeting and coping with defeat as well as victory that we become self-reliant. It is in acknowledging that we surely will fall that we learn how to get up and try again. It is in giving our word, and keeping it, that we earn self-respect. It is in daily struggle that we surmount the challenges of life. It is in becoming independent that we attain true emancipation — individual freedom of spirit. And it is in knowing we are free that we obtain dignity.

Notice how many times “self” appears in the preceding paragraph; how absent the word “government.” I’ve yet to hear of a government program that can give a child, or an adult, self-esteem, self confidence, self reliance, courage, dignity, or freedom of spirit. All of these treasures must be mined, in the end, by “self.” But if you want to be addicted to the drug of dependence and relinquish your dignity, your self-respect, your freedom in the process, join the multitudes who sup daily at the trough of government pap. Some say, “It takes a village.” The heart of the village is the family, and without heart, the village is of little use.

If this nation is to remain great for another 200 years, we must kick the drug of government dependence. Norman Vincent Peale said, “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.”

Essay by Sara Jo DuHamel

See also:


Reclaiming Americanism and the Constitution

Freedom, Morality, and Ignorance

The Contract with America the story of the Constitution



  1. This makes sense to our tea-bagger citizens. To the rest of us, you have to understand that they have constructed a fantasy world of them (hard working moral white christain males) and the others ( lazy non-whites).

    In this world the “others” want “government” to take care of them, and for it to be paid for, of course, with taxes (which only “they” pay).

    Once you adopt this world view, then you can feel justified in opposing the government helping anyone.

    (Except for white christian males, of course).

    1. So, Tip, do you mean that personal responsibility does not apply to non-tea-baggers? And, by the way, this piece was written long before the current tea bag movement. But then again, some of our founding fathers were the original tea baggers.

      1. I mean that “personal responsibility” is like “saved” for tea baggers. Something that they think they alone possess – which makes them superior to those lazy good for nothing brown folk that don’t have “personal resposibility”.

  2. Does “Personal Responsibility” include buying Health Insurance so the rest of us don’t have to pay for your care at the Emergency Room. Seems like Socialized medicine to me,Yet the Tea party people are whining.By the way this Mandate thing was hatched by the Heritage foundation, Supported by John McCain and George W Bush and praised By George Romney as the base for RomneyCare.Now that a Democrat has gotten it passed,it’s not such a good idea.

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