So I sought out the good ole reliable 😉 Wikipedia for the start…
Duty (from “due” meaning “that which is owing”; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence “debt“) is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment or obligation to someone or something. The moral commitment should result in action; it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition. When someone recognizes a duty, that person theoretically commits themself to its fulfillment without considering their own self-interest. This is not to suggest that living a life of duty entirely precludes a life of leisure; however, its fulfillment generally involves some sacrifice of immediate self-interest. Typically, “the demands of justice, honor, and reputation are deeply bound up” with duty.
…moral commitment or obligation to someone or something…
…commits themselves to its fulfillment without considering their own self-interest…
…justice, honor, and reputation are deeply bound up with duty…
Obligation? Commits? Sacrifice? Without considering their own self-interest?
WHAAAAAA?? I gotta do WHAT to live a life of duty?
Back in the day I think these ideas were more widely respected. They were the ultimate in reputation building. It was why men and women STAYED in marriages that were not always a pretty picture of happiness. It was why young women sometimes disappeared for a time to visit a distant relative and came back 8 months later seeming somehow “different”. It was why young men WILLINGLY went to the local recruiter’s office to sign on the dotted line for a time in their life to be devoted to their country. It is why elderly parents often times turned into extended house guests, rather than nursing home residents.
…because people realized that there were things worth having, going through, or fighting for even when they weren’t fun.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who still feel this sense in their lives and live accordingly.
But come on…is our society still enmeshed in this way of thinking? I look around at my peers of the late gen X and early gen Y arena and see many entitled brats looking to get “what’s theirs” and blindly chasing after the ever elusive “happiness” that comes from satisfying our own personal wants and desires. (NOTICE: I did not included “needs” as these are all already met) We have yet to TRULY feel what it is like to do without…to understand “hard times” as those before us have done.
We live in a time where “duty” is to one’s self. You gotta get yours! I don’t even listen to rap…but isn’t there a song…by the late “great” 2Pac?
We’re all just supposed to try and be “happy”. We want our children to “just be happy”. As though that is a possible “way of being” over the course of a lifetime.
While I can say that I know people who have an extremely positive disposition, I can’t say that I have EVER met anyone who is happy on a day in and day out routine. Oh, many can find happiness in many aspects of their life, but we all still experience setbacks and sadness and failures and disappointments. Does that mean that we have failed at life because we were not “happy” every day of our lives? Shouldn’t it be more important for us as parents to teach our children how to navigate the waters of this lifetime that include many ups and downs? They can be as happy as anybody’s business and still end up with a debilitating illness, or a life altering accident, or a heartbreak, or, or, or…
I think teaching our children about how to find satisfaction is more important than how to find happiness. Happiness can be such an elusive creature…a moving target. Satisfaction can be found easily in a job well done. Satisfaction in the gestures of a loved one that may “miss the mark” for pure happiness, but fall somewhere in the realm of a kindness received. I wish I felt more levels of satisfaction.
Duty, to me, seems like a level of satisfaction achieved. Duty may not make you blissfully happy. Duty may be an ugly truth of circumstance. But at least you can say that you did something to develop your character and help someone else regardless of their response or circumstance.
I think the root of true happiness can be found most easily when giving of yourself and finding that you have helped another…selflessly…when you least expected it…out of honor…and even sometimes with great sacrifice.
Because it was your duty to do so.