I was taking a walk after bingeing the first 3 seasons of “The Good Place” on Netflix. If you’ve seen it, you know what kinds of moral dilemmas they deal with. If you haven’t seen it, suffice it to say they deal with moral dilemmas albeit in a lighthearted yet emotional world.
Their dilemmas are of the ethical sort. Is it ok to lie? What if lying would save someone’s feelings? What if not lying would bring harm to people? Pretty much every plot thread is “can we lie or not”, “should I stick to my moral code all the time or not” , and “what does it mean to be human.” And also “love”.
But as I was on my walk, I thought about my own kind of moral dilemma: should I help people, when and why, and should my own best interests come first or should I always put others before myself. Also, does the apparent issues as well as their consequences that others face somehow direct my actions or inactions in light of the possibilities that I may or may not be the reason or cause of the outcomes whether objectively or subjectively good or bad?
But I thought, very clearly and with a lightened load, I am not responsible to fix other people or their problems.
Am I wrong?
If you look at a scenario where a boy is hanging off a cliff and all I have to do is wipe some spiders off a rope so I can lower the rope to the boy, allowing him to climb up to safety and thus saving his life… then the choice seems obvious, whether the boy put himself in that situation or it was a tragic accident.
But do you really need to pick up a piece of trash on the path at the park and carry it to the next trash bin?
And furthermore, which one is more good?
In “The Good Place” there are points awarded to and demoted from each person for every action they take. These points are added up to determine if one goes to the “good place” or the “bad place.”
But let’s be real for a second: I am a Christian. That it not how things work.
There is no checklist. There is no point system. No one is keeping score. You’re not being compared to other people. It may sound selfish, but it really is all about you.
However, there are rules you need to follow. There’s two big caveats (believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, then get baptized), two basic rules (love God and love your neighbor), and then a bunch of teachings (too many to count, but there’s give to Caesar, sin no more, believing is seeing, faith saves you, etc.) So, your journey, your salvation is a one player game. But this isn’t GTA, so you need to take care of the NPCs.
(Sorry, I’m listening to a gaming podcast.)
That may seem like a lot to take in, think about, care about, watch out for… but the main goal is have faith and take care of people…
Which has always seemed like a chore to me…
My dad would say, “you have to drive for the other people on the road.” I would be told to give my siblings my own things. I would be taken away from my toys and games to go do “things for people.” I would always be told to be the bigger person. I would even be told, in a sense, to give in and let other people have their way. I have been told in one way or another to do everything for other people, to help them, to do things for them, to let them have their way… and it has always sucked.
It has sucked because of the typical arguments against artificial intelligence as seen in everything from Star Trek to I, Robot to Avengers. In my mind “take care of people” transformed into “you are responsible for everyone, their problems, and their downfalls; you are responsible for fixing people; it’s all on you…”
That’s what has sucked.
But, on my walk I decided that I am not responsible for other people. I am not responsible to fix other people’s problems. I am not responsible for solving other people’s issues. And, as a Christian, I believe this is true and right.
Later, I was in the shower. I was thinking about #showerthoughts nonsense and once again stumbled upon my issues with feeling like I need to “fix-help” people. As I brainstormed with my shampoo bottle I came to the conclusion that I am not responsible for other people HOWEVER I do have a responsibility to do whatever is within my capabilities to assist people.
You can still think of it as helping, but really it’s more like assisting. I have a specific set of skills. I also have a specific amount of money I make. I have a fairly specific amount of free time during any given week. If any of these line up with the needs of someone else, then I have a duty to provide that help, time, financing, or talent. Why?
Because Jesus said so.
P.S. – this may all sound stupid. But here’s the deal: we need to love one another. Love is a verb, not a feeling. You love people by *do do doooo* helping them when they need it. And praying for them when you aren’t able to provide help.