Have you ever heard the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”?
It has a nice ring to it, even if it is as cliché as we know it is. We won’t speak to much about the phrase’s origins, but focus on more about what it means in relation to our own lives.
Disclaimer: For this post, we are focusing on only the definition of this word pertaining to this phrase!
What is responsibility anyway? The word itself is the compound form of the words Response and ability. It is a response to your own ability. If something needs to be done and you are asked to do it, you have the responsibility of doing it. However, all responsibilities, by definition, are optional, and of the thousands of responsibilities we encounter in our lives, only a fraction we fulfill. If we punish someone for not fulfilling a responsibility, it has failed to be a responsibility anymore. It is now a duty.
I will use an example to explain it. Hypothetically speaking, I work at a bakery. Before I started working there I spoke to the owner who told me to read about how to bake bread, bagels, elephant ears; fry doughnuts, twists, etc. I didn’t have to do it, but it was a responsibility I decided to fulfill. When I came to work at the bakery, it was easier for the workers there to teach me how to do what I studied. The actual hands on baking. Within a few short months of working there I was proven a diligent worker, and was asked to manage the shop closing every Friday night so that my boss could go home and watch his favorite TV show. I accepted this as a duty to fulfill, and if I had failed after taking it up, I would easily have gotten into serious trouble, but because of me being successful, I was eventually given more duties to fulfill, and so on.
This example also illustrates one of my favorite parables in the Bible. It is found in Luke 12:41-48. In it, if you are not familiar with this passage off the top of your head, Jesus is speaking to the disciples about stewardship, and our duty to be good stewards of what he has given us.
He speaks of a steward for a great lord. When the lord of the house goes away, he expects that the steward will keep the house functioning properly, giving each of the lower hands their portions of “meat in due season.” And “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” he goes on to say, “…he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” 45: “But if that servant say in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him…47: And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. …”
He goes on to say that if a person didn’t know what was required of him and as a result didn’t do what was required of him, he is still guilty to some extent, but his punishment will be less severe.
The second half of verse 48 is what is really getting close to the axiom, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“…For unto whomsoever much is given, much will be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask more.”
So now it has become apparent our axiom, no matter how profound it may sound to some, is a truism. Any time you have responsibility, it already implies that you have power, or ability; in this case these two are synonymous, and vice versa.
For me, I can play the organ. I have a responsibility to continue getting better at it, practicing and learning new pieces. Because I take lessons I also have a duty to practice regularly and in the way my teacher has instructed me. I do not always fulfill this duty, and the punishment is not severe, but it is mandated by my teacher to practice, so practice I must.
So with great power comes great responsibility? Is great the keyword in all this? Is that what makes it different? It shouldn’t be. No matter who you are, or where you are, you have some ability to do things. Even if your current ability is to gain ability, then you are responsible for doing just that.
Do you have to do it? Of course not! If it is not your duty then no. If you are not accountable, then no, you don’t have to do it. But you will be the one missing out in the end if you don’t.
I have to do one more thing here. It would be terribly easy to twist this post into something awful if I don’t say this, so I need to make a distinction.
To put it simply, all of us are capable of doing evil things. We do not, however have the responsibility to do those evil things because they are not desirable, or helpful to others.
Here is a note: all responsibilities have one thing in common: they all benefit someone else besides yourself. Think about it for a second. Have you ever had a responsibility that only benefited yourself? You can’t think of one can you? However, if you can, please post a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear form you.
TO BE CONTINUED…