In my last blog post, I wrote about some of the people who, throughout history, selflessly sacrificed their lives out of duty. Although Jesus, Socrates, and Joan of Arc are a few of the more notable martyrs, countless people have given up their lives for their duty over the last few centuries. And these martyrs include the soldiers who go to war to protect their country and their families, knowing well that they might not return. But they do it anyway, because they feel it is their duty—as a mother, a father, a wife, a husband, or a citizen.
Today, I want to look at how duty has changed over the years. As our governments and our cultures have evolved, so has our allegiance. Author Stephen Ambrose wrote about this change in his book, Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point. In the book, he says that in European nations, almost all military leaders were members of the ruling aristocratic family, which makes a lot of sense since, at the time, a military officer’s duty was to their country. Because a ruling family or party represented the country, this translated to an obligation to put themelves at risk to protect the country’s aristocracy.
But as people began settling in North America, their loyalties began to shift. This old sense of duty was eventually replaced by the American Dream, which told people that everyone has an important role to play in the grand scheme of things. As social hierarchy began to flatten out, the public sense of duty shifted a little. Although people still remained committed to their country, they no longer felt a strong duty to the people in charge.
Duty can also vary depending on your culture, according to the great political thinker Montesquieu. For example, a citizen living in a country ruled by a king or queen will feel an obligation to serve the ruling family. But a citizen in a country ruled by a dictator will direct that same sense of loyalty and service towards that one person. And duty will differ depending on whether you live in a democracy or an aristocratic nation. In an aristocracy, people are inclined to serve the parliament, where the people of a democracy remain loyal to their constitution and the people of their country.
Why am I telling you all this? Because, as an individual, you need to decide where your duty lies. Is it to your children? Your spouse? Your parents? Your country? Your God?
If you don’t know already, this is something you need to figure out in order to achieve your life’s purpose. After all, if you don’t know who you serve, how can you work towards your goals? More to the point, how do you even know what your goal is?
Take some time to think about who deserves your service and your loyalty. I guarantee that once you figure that out, you’ll be well on your way to valiantly doing your duty.