Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Personal Responsibility

When I think about the responsibilities we have to each other and to ourselves, I start to think a lot about what is more important. Selfishness is something frowned upon in our society, and yet we are often described as a very selfish culture. We want what we want, when we want it, and regardless of how it might affect others.

Perhaps this is why my friends and I get such a positive reaction from people when we say we work for non-profit organizations. We seem to have a higher purpose and goal, and we are commended for taking home a smaller paycheck in return. In reality, I think a lot of young non-profit professionals get frustrated about different aspects of non-profit work. I see a lot of my peers and colleagues become disgruntled and complain about the limitations of the work and the pay.

But even still, there is certainly a commitment to serve that I don't see in many people outside of the non-profit world. Despite the frustrations, everyone has at least one cause they are passionate about and put above almost everything else -- including themselves. Most of the activists I know work so hard that they often neglect their own health and well-being, myself included. By putting the work, the cause, the justice ahead of our own needs, are we doing more harm than good? Most activists would say of course not! We do what we need to do, when we need to do it, regardless of how it might affect us.

I'm coming to realize, however, that this just can't be an option anymore. A few other activists have been expressing similar sentiments for a while now, and I have no choice anymore but to agree with them. If the good we do for others is harming us, it is our responsibility to ourselves to step back, and hope that somebody else takes the wheel. If they do, we can be back in action when they need to step back. If they don't, then at least we'll be re-energized and ready to work even harder.

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