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Pianists and principles: Why individual responsibility is the basis of freedom

No word grates against a child’s soul like the word “responsibility.” Oh man, what a terrible concept. Like – you want me to clean my room? You want me to organize my things? Use a planner? The idea of responsibility was like a ball and chain on my concept of fun. I felt “freer” if I did things my own way.

It’s funny looking back on it, because as I’ve grown up and started a family, I’ve realized my freedom actually lies in my ability to be responsible.  If I’m not responsible for myself, then somebody else has to be.

We know the great theme of the first Spider-Man movie: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” It’s true. But at Sutherland, we take it a step further and say: “Great freedom necessitates great responsibility.”

The term “self-governing” is a wonderful expression, mainly because of its numerous implications. I’m responsible for governing myself, which means I govern with a set of principles outside of myself, which means … and so on.

Its most important implication, however, lies in the fact that it denotes a sense of sovereignty of the “self.” The self is the closest realm of local government.

Some think that if they are in charge of themselves, this gives them free rein to give into any temptation or desire that comes along because they’re bound to nothing. But remember what we learned earlier: That kind of freedom is similar to saying that the least-educated musician is freer at the piano than the concert pianist, because the concert pianist is bound to a set of principles that dictate music.

What did the concert pianist have to undergo to achieve such a talent and skill? She had to practice and work hard so that years later, her skill would allow her to be marketable, and she could have true freedom at the piano.

This is the relationship between responsibility and freedom: The responsible individual undergoes a process of education, discipline and submission to those “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence), which demand a form of excellence. This is freedom, to be a responsible individual without coercion from another person.

Do you want to be more like the beasts or more like the gods? If children didn’t learn “responsibility” at that young age, what would they be like when it’s time to lead a family? Would they be free to marry and raise children, or would they be slaves to the fleeting desires of the moment? Individual responsibility is the basis for freedom, because without it, you are a slave to your appetite – a slave to that which feels good but yields more sorrow than joy.

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