One of George Bernard Shaw’s statements frequently flashes through my mind: “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” In a day when most people pass the buck with merely a shrug, those words bite and sting. It’s one thing to sing and dance to liberty’s tunes, but it’s something else entirely to bear the responsibility for paying the band.
There are numerous examples of this. Leadership carries with it a few privileges and perks, but living with the responsibility of that task makes a reserved parking space and your own bathroom pale into insignificance. Conceiving children is a moment of sheer ecstasy, but rearing them as a loving and caring parent represents years of thankless responsibility. Running an organization that gets a job done, leaving those involved feeling fulfilled and appreciated, can be exciting, fun, and stretching, but it’s a nightmare unless the details of responsibility are clearly set forth and maintained.
Big projects and meaningful achievements get done not by dreamers but by doers, not by armchair generals who watch and frown from a distance but by brave troops in the trenches, not by fans in the bleachers but by committed coaches and players on the field, not by those who stay neutral and play it safe but by those who get off the fence of indecision, even though their decisions are occasionally unpopular.
All this reminds me of a full-page advertisement I saw in the Wall Street Journal:
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Sometimes the decision to do nothing is wise. But you can’t make a career of doing nothing. Freddie Fulcrum weighed everything too carefully. He would say, “On the one hand . . . but then, on the other,” and his arguments weighed out so evenly he never did anything. When Freddie died, they carved a big zero on his tombstone. If you decide to fish—fine. Or, if you decide to cut bait—fine. But if you decide to do nothing, you’re not going to have fish for dinner.
The secret of true liberty is responsibility. And that calls for decisions, decisions. Tough decisions. Lonely decisions. Unpleasant decisions. Misunderstood decisions. Courageous decisions.
As I recall, Jesus often had fish for dinner.
“Responsibility is the first step in responsibility”
(William Edward Burghardt Du Bois).