Independence and ResponsibilityWe were all teens once. What we wanted most in life was independence. We wanted to be free from our parents (i.e.,  oppression) so that we could do whatever we wished.

As parents with teens, we fear for our teens and the independence they desire. They aren’t ready. They aren’t mature enough. They aren’t being responsible enough.

Not being responsible! Who are you calling irresponsible?

Actually, all of us are irresponsible. We mistake independence for doing what we want no matter what the cost or longer term impact. We forget, often times, that it is a balanced equation.

Independence = Responsibility

There needs to be a tightly coupled, inseparable connection between the two. If they are not equal, what happens?

Here is what happens when independence does not equal responsibility:

Obesity: In a USA Today article, the following statistics on obesity were reported:

“In 1980, about 5% of men and 8% of women worldwide were obese. By 2008, the rates were nearly 10% for men and 14% for women.

That means 205 million men and 297 million women weighed in as obese. Another 1.5 billion adults were overweight, according to the obesity study.”

Although these are worldwide numbers, the Western countries have higher rates than many other areas.

In the United States, we can usually eat what we want to; the snacks and drinks are readily available, and we have the income to purchase them. We have a degree of independence in choosing what we eat when, but are we exhibiting a balancing responsibility when it comes to our intake and exercise?

Personal Overspending: According to a Bloomberg report:

“Consumer indebtedness rose 0.3 percent, or $33 billion, to $11.5 trillion at the end of March from Dec. 31 [2011], according to a quarterly report on household debt and credit released today.”


“…10.5 percent of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency…”

The personal debt is enormous. We are going through an economic cycle in which this has all caught up to many of us. We have had the financial independence to purchase with cash and lots of credit, but did we exhibit a balancing responsibility to live within our means?

US Government Overspending: In a US News article, Richard DeKaser, deputy chief economist at The Parthenon Group, a financial services firm, conveyed the following information:

“And the numbers are only getting scarier. That $14 trillion tab is growing at a staggering pace of more than $58,000 per second. “It’s truly huge—we’re talking 9, 10 percent of GDP. We haven’t seen anything like that in most people’s lifetime. For most people, this is unprecedented.”

There is little doubt that we can sustain this level of debt in our country. As citizens, we let our government spend freely, but are we exhibiting a balancing responsibility in prioritizing what we spend on what programs?

Getting Away with It: I don’t think I need to mention anything other than the following list:  bank bailout, auto bailout, Madoff, Enron, AIG, and the list continues. You can add in this list the individuals who are in prison or lost their jobs because they thought they were above the law or proper conduct.

We took advantage of the independence from regulation or oversight, but did we exhibit a balancing responsibility in being good stewards and making tough decisions when needed?

What this post is not about is:

  • Whether or not to add government regulations
  • Whether or not to raise taxes
  • Whether or not to regulate the food industry
  • Whether or not we should do bailouts

It is about how we need to:

  • Understand Independence equals Responsibility – there must be a balance.
  • Treat our independence with respect by embracing a responsible role in our personal health – financial and well-being
  • Understand that independence does not equal “All is Free”

It is about our choices and the impact of them. It is about our time to mature in recognizing that independence comes with responsibility.

During the last two decades, we have taken independence to an excess. Over the next two decades, we will need to take responsibility to an excess.

With the independence to make decisions and choose options, we need to understand, again, that there is a deep responsibility coupled with the gift we have. The Greatest Generation understood this. We have lost it.

In the spirit of this upcoming Independence Day, we need to recommit ourselves to the balanced equation of Independence = Responsibility. We need to have both.

Do you agree?