Social Responsibility

The creators of the Universal Values obviously felt like this category was hard to define with just one term, but even as silly as this title might seem when contrasted with the others, they are all linked behaviors. If I were to choose one of the terms in the above list that was the most applicable to the entire topic I would choose Social Responsibility—and that's how I'll refer to this section in this article from now on.

Having Social Responsibility means having the sense that you need to take responsibility for your own contribution to the well-being of the social groups you participate in. By roles social groups I mean, for example, your role in national politics, local politics, your place of work, your family, friends, church, clubs—this is a large category, but it's important that your participate well in all the groups that are important to you, whether personally or otherwise. You see, there is an unspoken contract between you and these groups, and none of them work if too many reneges on their roles. Democracies don't work if the citizens don't participate, friends and families fall apart when members don't contribute meaningfully and in a reciprocal fashion, and if you don't do your part at work the company fails (and you're probably fired). If people notice that you don't live up to your responsibilities, there is bound to be resentment or even lost relationships.

Taking action to fulfill your community responsibilities can come from a sense of habit and also from any other skills that help you get work done, like good organization for example (you're not going to vote if you don't know where to go and have time set aside during election day). Like other habits, you're going to have to get in the practice of taking charge of your own involvement in teams and other groups. Once you consciously struggle to become more involved in the community, work place, or amongst your friends, you will eventually become more accustomed to it—and eventually get better at the skills required, or at least know how much effort it takes you to participate meaningfully so you can plan accordingly.

Once you become an active member of the community, this will help you feel more accomplished and fulfilled, and help you find the meaning in your life that will help you round off your life with the virtues in the Transcendence category. Becoming socially responsible also helps you feel a stronger connection to the people around you and help you develop a stronger sense of Humanity toward your brothers and sisters who happen to be strangers.

Here are some suggestions on how you can become a more integral part of the community:


  • Read Up on Politics and Vote: Understand the issues involved and read news from sources that at least aspire to achieve neutral reporting (not that you shouldn't read both sides of the argument as well from more opinionated sources). This is more difficult, but try to learn more about the local issues as well. When it comes time to vote on nationwide or local election days, make sure you take the opportunity!
  • Find a Passion to Support: This could be a political passion or any important issue. Then take active and appropriate actions to try and support that cause. Many different organizations that support your cause will give you ideas on how you can help.
  • Keep Track of Your Very Local Politics (Friends and Family): I don't mean gossip, but with that said you should know what is on the minds of your friends and what big events are happening in their lives; let them know that you care. This will give you more opportunities to help them and share empathy.
  • Volunteer: This is a great way to actively help your community and build up your sense of humanity as well (as well as give your life a little more meaning). This might take up some of your precious time, but try to think if your other free-time habits, like watching TV for instance, makes you happier. It's likely that volunteering will bring more satisfaction than a few extra hours of TV viewing or internet surfing.
  • Give Yourself a Loyalty Test: Go through all your personal relationships and evaluate your loyalty. Do you stand up for them when they are not around? Do you look after their own benefit as well as your own when they're not looking? Do you gossip about them? Find areas of weakness—you will find them if you look hard enough—and improve on them.
  • Give Yourself a Teamwork Test: Evaluate your contributions to all your teams, whether this is your team of coworkers at your office, your family, a club, or whatever. Do you cause unnecessary arguments? Do you do what you promise to do? Do you do it well, or throw it together at the last minute? Do you know the others on your team pretty well? Can they trust you? These are all good questions to ask.
  • Get Involved in More Projects and Get More Involved: When you have an opportunity to get involved in a team at work or elsewhere, don't avoid it! Since you are looking toward improvement, try to focus more on what the goals of the team are and how you can offer help or give benefit toward that goal. Try to put in a little more effort than you usually do as well—and try to get along!

Your Record

Every day you fail to improve your community around you in some way, mark yourself at "fault"—if you are counting small chores everyday, you will have to mark yourself at fault eventually if you don't find more avenues to participate in or do it on a larger scale. You can even do something like read a newspaper if you haven't done anything else that day. Whenever you diminish the output or good camaraderie within a community—small or large—mark yourself at fault. When focusing on this trait, make some strong goals based on the activities above and mark yourself at fault if you don't keep them. You might want to keep this up for a long time if you want community involvement to become a habit!


We are living at a time when humankind can face whatever threatens it only if we, by which I mean each of us, manage to revive, with new energy and a new ethos, a sense of responsibility for the rest of the world.

Václav Havel, Czech playwright and politician

I ask you to join in a re-United States. We need to empower our people so they can take more responsibility for their own lives in a world that is ever smaller, where everyone counts.... We need a new spirit of community, a sense that we are all in this together, or the American Dream will continue to wither. Our destiny is bound up with the destiny of every other American.

Bill Clinton, American President

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.

Bob Dylan, Singer and Song Writer

Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors … Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.

Albert Einstein, Renowned Scientist

Golden Mean

Irresponsibility, alienation, indifference
Social Responsibility

Recommended Reading

Teamwork Is an Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility — by Christopher M. Avery, Meri Aaron Walker, Erin O'Toole

This book is all about learning the skills you need to get things done when working in groups; this is essential in the modern work environment.

Citizenship: A Very Short Introduction — by Richard Bellamy

This book is a part of a whole series called "Very Short Introductions." This covers everything from the history of citizenship, how it affects your rights and democracy, and the current state of citizenship in modern times with the advent of the "global citizen."

The Citizen Solution: How You Can Make a Difference — by Harry C. Boyte

This book is about the modern "citizen's movement," and how mobilized citizen activists can be more powerful than politicians in some cases. Offers examples and practical advice.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end. Adlai E. Stevenson