Dare we talk about responsibility in the same breath as rights and compassion?

Belinda Siew Luan Khong*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    This article examines the question of why the way that rights are granted, and compassion and responsibility practiced, are inadequate in addressing social problems. There is a tendency to treat rights, compassion, and responsibility as disparate phenomena, rather than as interrelated. The frequent call is for the granting of more rights, often without requiring the recipients to take reciprocal responsibility. The lack of reciprocity has the psychological effect of entrenching those that are being assisted in their positions of vulnerability, resulting in a loss of dignity and self-esteem. I offer a psychological perspective on responsibility, rights, and compassion grounded on the Buddha's teachings, Daseinsanalysis, and Heidegger's philosophy. I argue that the psychological needs of the recipients have to be taken into account in the formulation of social policies, and that rights and compassion have to be complemented with personal and social responsibility. If individuals, governments, and community leaders appreciate the interrelationship between poverty and personal aspirations, empowerment and dependency, and respond appropriately, they can provide a circuit breaker for the vicious cycle of learned helplessness and an erosion of human dignity that often perpetuate human suffering and social problems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-25
    Number of pages11
    JournalHumanistic Psychologist
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


    • responsibility
    • human rights
    • Buddha
    • Heidegger


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