Privilege & Responsibility

I have always lived a life of great privilege. I was born in a beautiful & safe country (Canada) to a reasonably well-off family, with a big house on a pretty lake. I've never known serious hunger, nor ever had to agonize over where I would lay my head at night. Nor ever had to worry on these accounts on my children’s behalf…

Yes, there have been a few nasty lumps & bumps along the way – but basically, anyone with even partial vision can clearly see it’s a life of considerable privilege.

“With great privilege comes great responsibility.” “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.”

So I have often heard said.

All this privilege I enjoy & have always enjoyed is grace, pure & simple. I didn’t “earn” it. I’m not somehow magically “entitled” to it.

It’s grace. A gift.

When we are given a gift, we give thanks, right?

Gratitude is a rather marvellous, circular phenomenon. When we practice it faithfully (whatever our personal circumstances & spiritual views & practices), our lives seem to magically open up. Joy becomes a reliable companion.

We want to “give back.” We want to “pay our dues.”

Might it be true that with great privilege comes great responsibility?

Brilliant & articulate Irish poet/philosopher John O’Donohue said, “We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”

Hmm. I wonder. Can this be true?


p.s. Ages ago now, I posted an essay called “Everything is all about ME, right?” The “Everything is all about ME” Kool-Aid most of us have swallowed in this crazy, consumptive culture of ours is doing exactly what poisoned Kool-Aid always does. It’s killing us! (But we can choose to stop drinking the Kool-Aid, right??)

p.p.s. At the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) conference I attended in Washington in June [2010], one of the many awesome speakers was Sister Joan Chittister, who spoke at length about compassion. She described our culture as being afflicted with “pathological individualism.” This is another way of describing what I refer to as the “Everything is all about ME” ethic. (Or, when I am being a wee bit less polite, the terminal "heads-up-our-own-arses” disease.)