Where does responsibility begin and end?
I’m thinking of a couple of friends of mine.
Friend A. Sleeps around. Women fall for him and he tells them he’s not into long term relationships. But one in particular lingers on in hope. In between other lovers, Friend A still sees this woman, because he might get ‘lonely’. Friend A’s dating life is littered with disappointed and bitter ex lovers. Is that Friend A’s fault? As he says, ‘I was honest – and they CHOSE to be with me. They’re big girls. They can look after themselves.’
Friend B. Her husband is a man without brains, looks, integrity or any distinguishable charm. But this man is completely dependent on her, although he likes to imagine that he’s not. According to Friend B, her partner would be lost without her. Friend B’s life is effectively signed over to this man, because she made a promise. Looking at the situation, I can see that although Friend B hasn’t done too well out of the arrangement, she’s certainly made a big and POSITIVE difference to a lot of people’s lives, by making this choice.
And now, to the case of Friend C. Friend C used to enter relationships on the assumption that, if she didn’t make any promises, she had no real responsibility for the feelings of others – beyond common politeness. If they developed ‘feelings’, that was up to them. Then Friend C had an epiphany. She got badly hurt by Friend A, and decided that ‘I didn’t make any promises’ just wasn’t good enough. Friend C then hooked up with a very beautiful man, and after some months found that she just couldn’t ‘love’ him (or, at this point, anyone). So she set him free (and luckily, he wasn’t ‘in love’ either). Sometimes when she remembers what a very beautiful and dear man he is, she regrets it, but then, she reminds herself, I have to be very CAREFUL.
So what are the limits of responsibility? I can’t control every ripple my actions might have, I can’t help being a source of hurt to someone, no matter how hard I try. Sometimes, somebody will like me more than I like them. Sometimes, I have to desert a friend to save my own life.
This is MY LIFE and I don’t get another one, so I’m not going to give up the whole damn thing so that someone ELSE can be happy! I’m not God and I can’t control human suffering, though in a small way maybe I can influence it. Come to think of it, looks like God can’t control it either…