Thoughts on Self-Responsibility

“Everything happens for a reason” goes the well known proverb. But what is that reason? It seems to me that too many of us are willing to surrender our free will and self-responsibility to submit totally to our nebulous “destiny”. We accept the fact that the reason everything happens is that god (any god, just take your pick) willed it, or that it was part of the divine plan, or anything else that takes it out our hands. But is this realistic and rational? And what about self-responsibility and free will?

I don’t believe that all the events of our lives are caused by some divine master plan. Rather, I think that perhaps there is a set of lessons for us to learn in our lifetime, but it is up to us to find them, learn them, and put what we have learned to good use. Sounds like an awful lot of responsibility, doesn’t it?

My Wiccan practise is based on the Universal Eclectic Wicca tradition. Part of the teachings are the Five Points of Wiccan Belief, which serve as a guideline for life. The Point that comes into play here is the Ethic of Self-Responsibility. It teaches that we, and we alone, are responsible for our actions; not the divine, or our parents, or our best friend. We, ultimately, have the final choice over our actions.

What does this mean for ideas of divine will and predestination? To my mind, they become interesting concepts that do not reflect reality. Believing that your life is already planned for you lets you become lazy in your choices. You can choose not to do something because you believe that you life will work out the same either way. And yet we all know that this is not the case. It is your choice to drive home drunk and risk having an accident, and it is your choice to volunteer your time and help someone to learn to read.

It takes a very strong person to accept total responsibility for their actions. And it takes a secure and intelligent person to realize when something is totally beyond their control. No matter how hard we try, not everyone is going to like us and approve of us, nor can we save everyone in the world. This isn’t because it is fated to be, but because we all have free will to act as we desire.

Admittedly, it is all very nice to believe in free will, but how does it work? In the book The Science of the Craft, William Keith speculates that the brain is a kind of quantum machine interacting with the “Quantum Sea”, where our memories and thoughts are held. Mr. Keith goes on to suggest that since the brain functions according to the principles of quantum physics, all possible decisions and outcomes are present and possible. Our ability to choose the outcome we desire is our free will.

All of this is very scientific sounding and not very spiritual. But to me this Quantum Sea, the area where our memories are stored and our brain “connects” to, is part of the higher astral realms and where the divine, in whatever form you wish, resides. If you are open to allowing the divine plan into your life, or if you are accepting of the winds of fate, it is at this level that you can be affected. But if you choose to exercise your free will and live by the Ethic of Self-Responsibility, it is here that you make your choice to live as your own person–connected and part of the divine and greater world, but responsible for your own actions.

Acceptance of our free will and our ability to shape our own lives can be difficult. We need to have a strong personality so that we are not easily swayed by others. And if we are spiritual people, we must also be strong enough to manage our faith and our free will. Life itself isn’t easy, and I believe it can only be truly satisfying if we develop the strength to be responsibly for our actions.