Liberty and Responsibility

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Freedom is balanced by responsibility in all matters. Too much freedom with too little responsibility produces situations that quickly spiral out of control. Insufficient freedom coupled with a heavy load of responsibility is likely to implode for lack of maneuvering room. This is as true with children as it is with democracies.

Children do not possess the tools necessary to set the balance between liberty and responsibility for themselves and this is one of the most important aspects of every parent’s job description. The child’s future as a young adult hangs upon the successful establishment of this balance early on and the ongoing recalibration of it as the child moves through the various phases of development.

Rebellion and resentfulness are not natural to children; they are produced by a lack of balance between these two poles. As children grow they should be granted ever-expanding freedom, provided, of course, that they match what is given with a corresponding assumption of new levels of responsibility.

The same rules apply with democracies. Liberty and responsibility must be matched, for history shows us that an imbalance constrains inevitably to tyranny, and the loss of all liberty.

In all things, balance.

9 thoughts on “Liberty and Responsibility

  1. Colin

    I think that if a parent is having issues in this matter, it is wise to look to see whether or not this balance is really there, or whether it is too heavily weighted to one side. I have seen parents that gave too much freeedom, and parents that gave too much responsibility without the corresponding freedom, and neither worked out well in the end. In both of these circumstances, I have noticed that love is the reason that the parents do not strike the balance appropriately. It is either “tough love” to give too much responsibility, or a love where the parent lives vicariously through the child and does everything for them. The first scenario breeds rebellion, the second resentment. When a parent really loves a child and are balanced themselves, they are able to almost innately see where they are giving either too much freedom or too much responsibility, and make the small adjustments along the way so that things never get too out of hand.


  2. Ricardo B.

    I see these two poles work in such a variety of settings, it’s simply so darn true! It is like a fulcrum where great success lies in the perfect balance. Working with health, I have to use this all the time, particularly when looking to inspire my patients to take ownership of their particular necessities, and as they do that in ever increasing ways, they naturally gain more freedom from their woes. It is part of the law of reciprocity which lies deep in the woven matrix of humanity.
    Liberty can be viewed as a privilege….ask that to anyone who was born in a land during a time where great oppression ruled, and was able overcome the limitations within him or herself.


  3. Kelli Lorentzen

    Important emphasis on balance here. As parents this gives us something to look at if there are imbalances in our children. As adults, if we are feeling resentful or rebellious then we can look to where there needs to be more balance, specifically where we may need to step up in our own responsibilities.


  4. David R

    Your words regarding the development of children are worthy of much expanded consideration. Rare is the child these days who receives anything approaching the balanced guidance you suggest, mainly because the parents typically struggle with the same problematic imbalances themselves. Our world revelas the evidence, on this basis, of adult children who have never had the privilege of maturing emotionally and mentally. We may decry that state, but on the other hand what a great opportunity there is for a different sort of influence as a few people grow up themselves and can then be genuine parents and mentors!


  5. “Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.” Alexander MacLaren
    Responsibilities can become over whelming when we forget that we have what we need to be able to accept them, and to accomplish what is being asked of us.


  6. Kimberly

    Many times parents give more freedom to their kids because they’ve worn them down or it’s more convenient for the parents. Balancing it with increased responsibility shown by the child is the only way the child can mature graciously.


  7. Doug

    Our world political landscape is good example as to what that looks like on both side of the issue. When I see our countrymen willing to give up our freedoms so that government will take their responsibility I”m betting the next protests will be because government is to restrictive. We need a balance but it starts with taking more responsibility not less.


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