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Showing posts with label duty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label duty. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Roles: We All Actors on Life's Stage

As many of us go through the year-ending holidays as parents and grandparents, we are looked to by our children as those who lead the activities and celebrations and just set the tone for our home.  We are usually embracing a role that our parents had embraced before us.  Sometimes it is out of a sense of tradition and sometimes it it because we want to do.  Anyway, let's focus on the word 'role'.  What is a role to me?  It is a part we play.  It is actions or attitude we embrace.  We embrace them for our own reasons.  

Sometimes, we embrace the part or actions/attitude because that is what is expected of us.  We want to be considered by society as being "responsible".  In other words, we do what is expected because we don't want to 'look bad' to others.  Sometimes, we embrace our role because it is a core belief of our faith.  We want to be respectful or obedient of our Higher Power (God) and/or our moral code.  The "Fear of the Lord" might keep us on the right track and/or just wanting to make sure we please our Father (Higher Power).  Sometimes, we feel like we are being judged by those close to us.  We may want to please our parents, spouse or even children.  Perhaps maybe it could be more like that we don't want to 'displease' them.  Sometimes it may be as simple as we want to be feel good about ourselves.  So, we embrace a role to boost or ego a bit.  Sometimes, there is just something deep inside us telling us that a particular role is just something that we should have or do or are meant to have or do.  Whatever the draw,  sometimes it feels to me in a way that we are actors on a stage called life.  Our audience may be society at large, those close to us or are Higher Power.  

Sometimes we embrace a role with almost reckless enthusiasm.  We are excited and can't wait to burst onto the stage and start belting out our lines.  That is, we are almost getting ahead of ourselves.  We are on the edge interrupting the other actors or actresses who are in the process of finishing their lines.   Sometimes, we embrace our role with dogged determination.  We appreciate it is what we should be doing or where we should be.   We push and grind through it in a bid to make sure we get it right or complete.   Sometimes, like Noah, we grudgingly embrace our role because, while we hate it, we are facing consequences if we don't.   Whether it is someone's wrath, a loss of face or just personal shame, we are compelled to meet our role.  Whatever way we embrace it, we still behaving like actors on stage.  Just sometimes we have an easier time getting into the character of our role.  Additionally, sometimes we just do a better job in 'acting' our role.  While it would be best if we embraced our roles properly and gave an Oscar worthy performance in our roles, much of the battle is just accepting and trying.   Like a famous PSA for adopting says, "You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent."  Sometimes it is enough to accept and work seriously at your role.

I've expressed why we seek and/or accept roles.  I've also expressed how we embrace our roles.  But, let's get more concrete.  What our our roles?  Below is just a sampling of roles and not meant to be a complete list or in any particular order.

ROLES (examples)

  • Becoming/being a parent
    • When I took my daughter's mom to the hospital 13+ years ago, I felt like we were a couple with this concept of impending parenthood represented by a significant bulge in her tummy.  I knew conceptually that we were about to become parents, but nothing could fully prepare me for what followed.  We went to the hospital as a couple with the idea of a child on the way.  We left as a couple that just happened to have this little person who was fully dependent on us.
    • As we were taking this little person to the car on the way out, it struck me: I'm a parent now and I don't know if I have what it takes.  Life hits you quick sometimes and I realized that I needed to suck it up and try no matter my insecurities.
    • I was on 'stage' with the audience being the world.  I felt like I had to put on a good performance in the role of 'parent'.  Honestly, for me, my real audience was my daughter, her mom and my Higher Power (God).
  • Being a good spouse/significant other
    • As I've heard and been advised the real work of relationships/marriage is not when things are going smooth.  The real work is when there are difficulties, differences or conflict.   It's easy when things are going smooth to be embrace the illusion that 'love' alone will carry the day.  However, as anyone who has been in a long-term marriage or who has been divorced realizes that warmth towards your SO is important.  However, dedication and determination will carry the day long term.  In other words, 'playing your role'.
  • Being a good employee
    • I've heard the phrase, attributed to Mark Twain, "Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life."  I don't necessarily totally agree with that.  I think that even people that love their job, need a break from time to time.  Even the most loved jobs can have their own challenges.
    • Our role is quite clear here: If you are do a job, do it properly (or to the best of your ability).  It's hard to take pride in doing a job poorly and/or disinterestedly.
  • Being a citizen or member of society
    • In order for society to function smoothly we have to be a good neighbor and we have to participate in it. 
      • We play the role of a voter.  We take seriously the role of choosing our leaders and/or our rules.
      • We can play the role of a good neighbor.   If we see someone that is distressed or needs help.  Even if we don't feel like getting involved, putting ourself at risk or just interrupting what our own routine, we can play a responsible role.
      • If we are in a 'hero or leader' role, it is important that we embrace the role properly.  It is important that we set a good example.  That could making sure we are appropriate in our role.  It could mean that we put others before ourselves.

Roles can feel uplifting, roles can feel challenging, roles can feel foreign, and frankly roles can even feel miserable.  But, however a role feels, if we are meant to take a role, it is important that we take it seriously.   An actor on the stage will only be accepted by the audience if he/she takes his/her role seriously.  Similarly, I believe we can live a meaningful, purposeful or proper life if we are willing to take seriously or accept our role.   This isn't always easy and sometimes as I will aside shortly, roles can be brutal.  For me, when I think about it, if God can take the form of a man and take on hurt of the sin of the world and the brutal death for us, maybe I can suck it up.

Just my 2 cents.

-- Rich

  • In 2011, I had to play the role of a loving younger brother while I helped with my late brother's passing.  In 2015, I finished that role as I had his ashes interned.  I wrote a eulogy for him.
  • In 2014, I had to play the role of a responsible son as my mom died suddenly and not fully prepared.  I had to pull together (financially and logistically) a funeral and a wake in a matter of a few days.   Once again, I had to write a eulogy.
  • In 2015, I had to set up another funeral and burial as my dad finally succumbed to Parkinson's related complications.
In each case, I wanted to run away from responsibility.  I didn't want to have to push through the pain and the loss.  My mother and dad had entrusted me to be the 'responsible party'.   My late brother's passing was unexpected and he didn't entrust anyone.  But, as his closest family member, I knew it was my role to see that he and his memory were treated properly and respectfully.   He needed a strong advocate and no one had to tell me, I just knew it was my role and as I look back my honor.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Honor vs. Duty vs. Checking off a Box

I was talking to a friend recently about family.  We came to the determination that sometimes a family's engagement with each other is colored by their faith or beliefs to the extent that they feel compelled to interact with each other.  The idea being that if certain members had their druthers they would pretty well ignore the others.  In other words since the "Good Book" says "honor thy father and mother" and the like, certain family members will humor the others out of a sense of "following the rules".   In other words, in order to be a "proper" Christian, Catholic, or whatever, you should be 'good' to family, even if it is just effectively for show.

We talked it about in terms of honor vs. duty, when I think what we really were considering was a third idea.  That is, checking off a box to their Higher Power or others they want to please.  The box says 'I did what I was supposed to' or 'I made an effort'.  Below, I will explore each of these concepts.


  • From the Army's website, is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do. I believe this is commonly how people see it.
  • Essentially, it is doing the right thing because you know it is the right thing to do.  That is to say, you wish to live a life of respect and purpose.  Respect not just for our Higher Power & others, but respect for yourself.  
  • I see it as doing what you know is right and not looking back or second guessing, you just do (often without even pausing to think about it).
  • Many people join the military or otherwise take professions in which they put their life on the line due to a sense of honor.  They feel like they are meant to help others, it is their purpose.
  • I buried my mom, my dad & my immediate older brother out of a sense of honor.  The family needed someone who would make sure each was done right in their final journey.  This included planning & preparing for their memorials/funerals, giving them a respectful eulogy, directing obituaries & making sure that where a shortfall occurred that the funds necessary would be provided to make all of this happen.  It was very draining and it sure wasn't any fun.  But for me, I knew taking care of them and those left behind in those moments was just what needed to be done, period.

  • The English Oxford Living Dictionaries first definition of duty is as follows: A moral or legal obligation; a responsibility.
  • I separate it from honor, because I see duty as something that is often done because there is a requirement to do it.  Meaning, while you respect the legal or moral requirement to do it, there may not be a greater sense of purpose or 'honor' that goes along with doing your 'duty'.
  • While doing something out of duty may not be as noble of doing it out of honor, there is a certain level of respect that is earned for doing someone who does out of duty.  While it may not be as profound as the respect earned for doing something out of honor, it still deserves respect.
  • For me, duty might be making sure your child is properly clothed, fed, educated and kept warm and safe.  It could also be making sure you do your best to do your job well.  In other words, doing the things that we are supposed to, even when we are feeling tired or short on enthusiasm.

  • To me duty implies a sincerity of purpose.  I made this category to cover when we are doing something because we believe it is expected of us, because it will 'look good' or because we have this moral 'law-based' obligation to do it.  When we do something based on any of those, we are hollow inside about it.  In short, we are insincere about purpose and/or are going through the motions.
  • An extreme case of this is illustrated in the Bible.  In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus condemned the Pharisees as zealots who would tie heavy, law-based loads onto those they led and make a show of 'observing the law' when in reality at best they were observing the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it.  They would often display their 'piety' publicly for show, while privately having no little or no piety.  They'd rationalize that they were set because they 'followed the rules'.
  • Sometimes, we have to check off a box when the rules or regulations or restrictions are so ridiculous that we are forced to jump through hoops (such as when starting a business).  However, what I am meaning is our personal actions being dictated by a need to make ourselves feel better (rationalize) or to appear proper.  An example of this is inviting nearby family over once a year on the holidays because our 'faith' tells us to love each other.  Yet, the balance of the year is spent ignoring them.  To me, that's not family, getting together with people because you are related to them.

I'm not sure what the takeaway from this particular blog is except this: Not everything we do in our lives is out of honor.  Many of our actions are done out of duty and there is plenty to be celebrated there as many do not even meet the basics of that.  However, I believe if our personal actions are largely dictated by the need to 'check off a box', then it is time we reexamine our lives.  That may mean stopping the insincere parts of our lives (such as pretending to be a friend, when we don't want to be one) OR adjusting our frame of mind (respecting that God gave us family and even if they aren't perfect learning to appreciate the gift of family he gave us).

I know this seems like a bit of a judgmental blog, but when often times when I write, I write with a mirror in hand to examine where I can improve or meet  the ideals I espouse.  After considering a little, I guess my secondary takeaway is to be honest with yourself and what animates your action(s).  Only by reflection can we improve.

Thanks for reading and I hope to post again soon.

-- Rich

I believe Eric Clapton honored the memory of his son with this song.  This was a love song to his son who passed way too soon.  This song often brings tears to my eyes listening to it.