Stand Up and Be Counted a.k.a. Fear of Responsibility

Responsibility – is there another quality that is so positive yet gets such a bad rap?

Risto Pakarinen, 30.07.2013

Hypengyophobia [from the Greek “hypengyos”, meaning responsible and “phobos”, meaning fear] is an overwhelming, irrational fear of responsibility. A hypengyophobic person might be self-indulgent, irresponsible, even at the expense of others, and tend to blame others when their own irresponsibility results in failure.


Responsibility – is there another quality that is so positive yet gets such a bad rap? A good and admirable characteristic, yet some people feel it drags us down and holds us back. You’ve heard the slogans: drink responsibly, gamble responsibly, buy responsibly.

Responsibility is the parent who drops you off at a friend’s house, tells you to have fun, but mutters as you exit the car, “but not too much fun.” Babies exhibit no sense of responsibility – they just eat, sleep and grow. But the first-time parents feel the full weight of the new responsibility on their shoulders. They also feel its joys.

Being young is about being rebellious,  but there are also concerns that people today are unwilling to take on adult responsibilities or are postponing it. We may just have a few too many self-centered, irresponsible individualists among us.

Ready to Take Charge?

A 2012 study commissioned by Ledarna, the Swedish organization for managers, asked over 4,000 men and women between 18 and 35 about their attitudes towards being a manager. Some 40 percent of the Finns and Swedes surveyed said they had no ambition to become managers, and 84 percent of the rest said they wanted to do it later in their career.

Maybe some people are averse to taking responsibility if they feel it’s forced on them. Or perhaps they just don’t have the maturity to stand up and take the blame when things go wrong. Of course, things could go right, too.

People tend to fall into three categories: those who take full responsibility for themselves and others, people who never take responsibility for anything, and those who hesitate until they feel pressured to step up to the plate when nobody else does.

Being responsible for one’s actions and choices is the mark of a mature human being and most of us do develop some sense of duty. Even a lazy teenage boy who doesn’t mind letting his parents and siblings do all the work for him can grow up to be an excellent dad (and a servant to his kids in turn).

Are Humans in Fact Hard-wired for Responsibility?

In his book Wild Justice, (2010) Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, says that all mammals have intrinsic moral values because without a sense of morals, animals couldn’t live in close-knit groups.

And there is some evidence to support his claim. Vampire bats who need fresh blood daily are known to share it with other bats. In Florida, a group of chimpanzees treat a physically and mentally handicapped chimp named Knuckles with care and compassion. In 2003 a herd of elephants saved a stranded antelope, and dolphins have been known to save humans from sharks. Bekoff says that dogs also have a sense of fairness. These are all indications that a sense of responsibility may also exist in other species besides humans.

Maybe we are born to do the right thing.

It may not be easy and it may require courage and character, but taking responsibility is a quality that makes us human. In the words of Bob Marley: “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.” And the rights of others.

Live responsibly.

PROFILE MAGAZINE 2/2013, page 4

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