Friday, May 11, 2007

Courtesy and Responsibility

There's a Liberty Mutual Ad out with a really nice sentiment, but there's just something not quite right about it.

The commercial shows a bunch of people being courteous, and without a doubt, being courteous is The Right Thing To Do™ 99.44% of the time.

What gets me at the end is that they imply very strongly in the end, that doing these things is called "Responsibility".

Which is really not true. Doing these things is called "Courtesy", and courtesy is definitely a Good Thing™. (By the way, ™ here is not meant as sarcasm as I more often use it -- it's meant to denote something means a little more to us all than the mere words I use to express them. More of an A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh capitalization thing, with a flourish).

And maybe the reason I'm sensitive to this distinction is that I think our culture is well on its way to losing the meaning of Responsibility. While both courtesy and responsibility are very desirable traits in a person, there is a difference.

Let me give you some examples of Responsibility:
  • you drop it, you pick it up.
  • you break it, you fix or replace it.
  • you say you will be there at a certain time, you show up on time.
  • you make a promise, you keep it (and this applies to debt, too, for those who don't get it).
  • you bring a child in to this world, you make sure it learns things like courtesy and responsibility and takes them to heart. Oh yeah, and you feed it and nurture it, too, until it can do all of these things on its own.
  • You vote, you make sure you have a clue about what you're voting on.

Of course, if you're looking for such clues, we're here serving up fly balls about every day. :-)

No comments: