Obligation is one of those words that comes with a lot of heaviness. When I think of obligation there is usually a sense of something that is forced on me against my will. All one has to do to is look up the synonyms for obligation to see why that is. One synonym is burden, another is liability, and another is constraint. Who would want any part of that? Lightness and freedom are much more appealing, don’t you think?
 
I was thinking about this while preparing quite a bit of material for a charity I’m involved in. I didn’t really want to spend time on it just then, but it needed to be done, and I was the one to do it. I thought for a minute that it would be nice if someone else would take this on, instead of me, and I saw a bit of resentment inside of myself that no one else was helping. For a second I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t just resign and be free of all the work. That passed, and I turned to actually getting on with the work in front of me. But I was left with a question about obligation in general, why do we see obligation as so often inherently negative?
 
The word obligation derives from the Latin “obligatio” which means a binding or tying together. And just as gravity ties together the objects of the universe, so obligation acts to tie together our relationships with others. We are not free from either gravity or obligation, but that also then means we are connected to everything because of these two forces. 
 
In considering my own obligations, whether arising out of the fact of my existence, or whether through choice, I have come to the realization that it is these obligations that have created my life. It is through obligation that I am connected to others, and it is through connection I derive my life’s meaning. Obligation serves to create my life purposes, and there is also a very deep idea that my obligation to participate in an exchange of energies between higher and lower creates the purpose for my very existence. 
 
I do have some choice in the matter, what it is I chose to be obligated to creates the quality of my life. To be obligated to situations and people that are less superficial deepens my own life, and deepens my satisfaction with my life. And, finally, I have the choice of accepting the obligations I am under with equanimity, rather than with frustration, resulting in more happiness, and who would not wish for that?
 
“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Kris Kristofferson
 
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