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Soulful Sundays: Burdens

"With great responsibility comes great power." -Not From Spiderman

And "With great power comes great responsibility." -Uncle Ben

Children are textbook examples of the human tendency to seek more freedom while at the same time depending on security. A balance of the two is necessary for their healthy development. From an early age, babies require anchoring with their care providers, forging a relationship of safety and provision. It is out of this healthy attachment that they can begin to explore interactions with other people, new situations, and alone time with themselves. If safety is lacking, then children become disruptive, resigned, or ambivalent in response to challenging stimuli.

Safety can come in many forms. In the abstract form, it can be the love and attention provided by parents. Safety can also describe the concrete rituals of feeding, bathing, cleaning, and sleeping that our parents establish to keep our bodies healthy. The basic responsibilities and urges of being human are grounding in their own right. They are consistent and powerful reminders that we are merely renting our time here in these bodies. If you don't obey thirst, hunger, tiredness, and the need for shelter, you don't live very happily for very long. We can get annoyed by such banal responsibilities when they aren't convenient, but we recognize them as necessary motivators for our survival, and satisfying our most basic urges is hardwired in our brains to be quite pleasing.

When it comes to more complex responsibilities (like work, family, and personal baggage), we are often less tolerant of the resulting effort necessary to satisfy them. In the ideal situation, we would be able to choose our responsibilities (We can only wish!), and we would have all of the requisite resources and abilities to fulfill those responsibilities. More often the case is that our responsibilities are unceremoniously crammed down our throats and we mostly feel like amputees learning how to swim in order to just stay even with them. This is when "responsibility" gets traded in for the word "burden."

Some burdens are avoidable, some are not. To rid yourself of all burdens, while it may sound nice, would actually be a mistake. To be free of challenge and responsibility is a regression. You lose parts of your power and freedom in the exchange. A manageable level of responsibility makes us more adaptable and more compassionate. It tethers us to our community and gives us perspective. Just like carrying a weighted pack for exercise makes you stronger, taking on burdens betters your character.

Whatever burdens you are faced with, remember that they can be your greatest teachers and your greatest sources of learning and power. No one said that they were going to be kind teachers, though. The more you try to run away from the lessons that your responsibilities are meant to teach you, the harder and harder those lessons will become. Fully embracing responsibility can serve as the anchor that allows you to fully embrace freedom, growth, and challenge. It may sound like a contradiction, but as the great general, Caesar, and Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, wrote, "The impediment to action advances action...what stands in the way becomes the way."

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