What Duty Do We Have To Live Properly?

The key word in this question is clearly the word “properly”. What does it mean to live properly? Who determines what make a proper life?

Each one of us lives the life that we think is best. If we wanted to live our life differently, we would do it! For some, that might mean to live in as much comfort as possible. Others might want to improve the lot of humanity. Some may want to provide for their family.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Besides a desire to live our ideal life, there are always constraints that make that difficult. Maybe you are born in a war-torn country. Or you are not as tall, or as strong, or as attractive, or as smart as you’d like to be. The color of your skin might be a societal disadvantage, or your access to educational opportunities may be lacking.

But even factoring in the hardships or difficulties an individual might face, do we have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it? Or do we only have to look out for ourselves?

Do we have a duty to live properly? And what does the word “properly” mean to you? How should we live our lives in the most responsible way?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? What are our responsibilities to others? What gives you purpose? Individual or society? What do we owe the future?

1 thought on “What Duty Do We Have To Live Properly?”

  1. I need to begin by noting that I disagree with much of the context for this question:
    – First, each one of us does not live the life that we think is best. I, for example, often fall short of my healthy eating goals — for myself and the planet. Or, if you are religious, you may point out that we are all sinners in some way.
    – Second, constraints on our lives are often, unfortunately, part of who we are. That does not diminish our attempts to live “properly” as we define for ourselves and within our own context.
    – Third, there’s the adage, “You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.” Anyone trying to do otherwise will soon fall off the bandwagon or burnout.

    Now, to the question at hand: Yes, I believe we do have a duty to live properly, accepting that self-care/preservation is part of that mix and that we, as fallible beings, often fall short of our goals.

    For me, “properly” is based actions I take within four self-care roles (i.e. physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual) and four self-defined roles (i.e. spouse, home economist, public policy director, and friend/colleague).

    For instance, I focus much of my spiritual role on three altruistic passions:
    – fighting to end poverty, upon which I’ve devoted much of my career and a significant portion of my college activist days;
    – ending the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness, which I am very vocal about and keep a blog called Prone to Hope; and,
    – doing my part to take care of the planet (e.g. I am an heirloom gardener — to keep rare seeds in circulation, provide healthy food to pollinators, and grow a fair portion of my household’s food.

    Do we have a duty to live properly? That might be a stretch. But we certainly have a duty to try.

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