Statue of Responsibility


Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who went on to publish the best-seller Man’s Search for Meaning, which today is considered to be among the top 10 most influential books in the U.S.

Frankl was prescient; he wrote that in 1946–over 70 years ago. Let me say this is in a shorter, less memorable way: “For every freedom or right, there is an equal or greater responsibility.”

We need a Statue of Responsibility to make us constantly aware of the need to be conscious of the importance of balancing freedoms with responsibility. But let’s go a step further and create a bit of an imbalance; we need to shoulder more in the way of responsibilities than we ask for in the way of freedoms and rights. It is a little bit like a bank account; in order to succeed over time, we need to put in more than we take out. And, yes, it really is that simple.

Caution: We live at a time when freedoms and rights are increasingly being touted everywhere, with little or no mention of responsibility. In fact, if one has the nerve to bring up personal responsibility, many of those pushing more freedoms and rights go immediately for the kill by shouting “racist!” Huh? Q. How on earth did bringing up responsibility become racist? A. It didn’t. Sadly, we also live at a time when an accusation–true or false–can be seen as both evidence and a conviction.

The diagram below shows in an easy-to-remember way what the flow of responsibility must be. Responsibility begins with and relies on the Individual. If a person cannot (emphasis on cannot) do what is needed, the next step is to turn to Family and Friends. If they cannot add what is necessary, the needs are elevated to Community and Charity. If the Community and Charity level is not capable of meeting any remaining needs, those requirements are then given to Government; Local, State and Federal–in that order. Responsibility for everything must start with the individual. This is not just because being responsible and teaching responsibility are the foundation of dignity and success for any person or group, but because all of the other layers are comprised of individual people–and nothing but. And by definition, if the people in those different layers are not responsible, then nothing will work–chart or no.

This chart is foundational to the creation of a roadmap of success for an individual or a society. If you invert this chart, making government where the initial responsibility lies, then everything will and must collapse under its own weight. Individuals fund the government; individuals form the government; individuals must constrain the government. Said similarly–and better–much earlier, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Words famously uttered by Abraham Lincoln, “Four score and seven years…” after the Revolution in 1776. Today, seven score and fourteen years after he gave this speech, we again need a “new birth of freedom.” Revolution 2.0™

Qui Bono? Who Benefits?

I like the Responsibility Flow chart (thanks to Bob Crum for taking my scribble and make it look worthy). Any ideas about what the statue of Responsibility should look like? Or where is should be? Of how to fund it? Eager to read your comments in the blog.


Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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6 Responses

  1. Christopher Phillips Reply

    Love this Will!! Well stated!! Perfect quotation from Dr. Frankl!

    One of my favorite quotes of all time is:
    “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the people who walked
    through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.
    They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that
    everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human
    freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to
    choose one’s own way.”
    –Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

  2. Tim Larson Reply

    Read Man’s Search for Meaning a few months ago. Fascinating detailed account of the camps, then the presentation on logotherapy. Some of his patient stories reminded me of stories E Stanley Jones described in Unshakeable Kingdom, Unchanging Person. When we find our calling, our purpose, we move in to more of God’s plan for us, which involves moving up your Responsibility Flow diagram.

    Other thing the diagram reminded me of was a sermon many years ago about integrity. We “integrate outward”, or on your chart, upward. If our individual lives are in order, we can integrate with family (spouse, kids…), and so on. If we don’t have personal integrity, we don’t have anything to offer any group “up”. As our family has integrity, we can integrate out/up further. As our families are in order, we can serve (community, ministry…). The punch line was to get right with God, live with integrity, then expand that to family, others, community, ministry…

    • Will Luden Reply

      Tim, wonderfully well said. In my life, I find that the more constantly connected I am with God, the more integrity that I have–especially in difficult circumstances. Will

  3. Billie Cullipher Reply

    Finally getting around to reading your BLOG. Great stuff. I totally agree. No one seems to want to take responsibility for anything and everyone seems to be a victim. I have not had things easy the past several years, but I choose to not be a victim, but to be a victOR with Christ’s help. We have so many freedoms in this country and even more when we are responsible for our own actions. Look forward to reading more.

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