The Duty of Privilege

“The duty of privilege is absolute integrity.” – John O’Donohue

Today is Independence Day in the United States of America and as an American I am mindful of the responsibility I have to carry my affairs with absolute integrity, not to a set of ideals or opinions, but to truth.

Privilege is often accorded to individuals and groups of individuals beyond the level of responsibility they presently hold. It is up to those individuals to raise their standards in living to the point that the privilege is matched by a corresponding degree of responsibility. In this balance privilege is not only maintained, but grown. Future privilege comes from responsibly handling the harvest of present privileges.

Every citizen of the United States, for instance, inherits by virtue of his citizenship, a nourishing yolk sac of privilege from his forefathers, both in the sense of the Founding Fathers and in the sense of those who have come before and who, in their living, have carefully maintained the rights and privileges accorded to them. What he does with that determines his value as a citizen.

Every child who inherits a family business, likewise, benefits from the privilege of a pre-established set of resources, the fruits of the past labors of those who came before him. If he handles those well, he and the microcosm for which he is responsible, will flourish. Privilege will give way to expanded privilege, provided of course that responsibility gives way to the assumption of even greater responsibility.

So it is with respect to truth. Every man, woman, and child has a unique and special relationship with truth. The freedom of truth is accorded to those who assume responsibility with respect to it. Those who align themselves with truth in all matters and who conduct themselves in accordance with the principles of truth are regularly accorded an even greater experience of the freedom which attends living in accordance with truth.

Expediency instead of integrity brings failure, even if the momentary appearance of taking a shortcut, of compromising on this point indicates otherwise. Truth will always out and freedom, true freedom is only known as their is integrity with respect to it.

Many people in the United States will say to themselves or out loud: “God Bless America.” To make this more than a vain hope, the individual citizens which compose this potentially great nation must align themselves with truth. Any nation, any body of people – including the body of humanity – is only exceptional if this point is proven in living.

3 thoughts on “The Duty of Privilege

  1. Coco

    I’m always saddened when I see that oft times we become aware of the great privilege we’ve had, after we’ve lost it. Wonderful post, thank you.


  2. David R

    Perhaps the greatest overall snare for human beings has been the apparent inability to balance privilege and responsibility. There may be some awareness of the relationship between the two, but people can so often become subject either to their lust for privilege or their antipathy towards acceptance of responsibility. This dynamic plays out on stages large and small, with the net effect resulting in nullification of much wonderful potential.

    Humility and strength of purpose are not antithetical qualities. One who accepts responsibility without demand or a sense of entitlement may receive privilege gladly and rightly without being swayed or diverted by it, utilizing it to further creative purpose. Here is the beginning of a clear place in what has been a murky mixture!


  3. Yes!. Freedom is really an internal matter and increasingly given as there is a choosing of absolute integrity regarding all that is contained in one’s living. Any choosing of ill discontent regarding any matter is a violation of this integrity resulting in the feeling of restriction and one’s own personally produced imprisionment. Freedom is a choice regardless of outer circumstances. In order to God bless America and the freedom for which it truly represents we must know the reality of freedom within ourselves. I appreciate considering how to really celebrate this 4th of July.


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