Institute in Basic Life Principles

Giving the World a "New" Approach to Life!

How do responsibilities relate to personal rights and expectations?

Responsibilities, Rights, and Expectations
understanding the difference

Conflicts are usually the result of fumbled responsibilities, trampled rights, and unfulfilled expectations. If you can learn to acknowledge and identify these factors, you’ll gain insights into resolving the anger and worry that plague many relationships.


A responsibility is a task that you are asked to perform within a specific role. For example, a husband is responsible to love his wife. A wife is responsible to honor her husband. Parents are responsible to care for their children. Children are responsible to honor their parents. Employees are responsible to work. Civil officials are responsible to punish wrongdoers.

Your current life roles determine your responsibilities. The responsibilities of a child are different than those of a parent or employer. Your success and sense of fulfillment within a role often reflect your faithfulness to fulfill the responsibilities related to that role.


A personal right is a demand that you can make of another and can expect to receive. In the roles of life where you fulfill responsibilities, you have personal rights.

For example, a husband has a right to be respected by his wife. A wife has a right to be loved by her husband. Parents have a right to be honored by their children. Children have a right to be cared for by their parents. Employees have a right to be paid a just wage for their labor. Citizens are entitled to the rights of their citizenship. Your rights are honored when others fulfill their responsibilities.


An expectation is an obligation that you mentally assign to another person. It is a benefit that you believe is owed to you based on your responsibilities and rights, because of what the other person has said or because of his responsibilities.

For example, a husband might expect his wife to keep an orderly home or serve dinner each evening at a certain time. A wife might expect her husband to regularly take her out on a date. A child might expect his parents to buy him the clothes he needs. Employees might expect to be recognized for exceptional service. Citizens might expect protection and services from the government.

Gain a Biblical Perspective

It’s important to carefully consider your rights and expectations in light of what is true Biblically. Too often what you perceive as personal rights are actually selfish expectations. Yielding your rights and expectations to God provides an opportunity to discover His perspective regarding what you expect of others.

There are legitimate rights and expectations that children should have of their parents and that parents should have of their children. Husbands and wives also should have expectations of one another. Employers, employees, civilians, and civil authorities also should recognize legitimate rights. A basic secret to harmony, however, is to yield your expectations and rights to God and to focus on fulfilling your responsibilities.

If you concentrate only on your rights and leave your responsibilities unfulfilled, you provoke reaction and resentment. By concentrating on your responsibilities toward others, you allow them to enjoy their God-given rights. Your actions free them to fulfill their responsibilities to you so that you, in turn, are able to enjoy your God-given rights.

For example, when a father yields his right and expectation to be respected and concentrates on his responsibility to love his wife and teach his children to be respectful, it if far more likely that he eventually will receive the respect and honor his position deserves. If he doesn’t “expect” words and actions that honor him, he will respond with joy and gratitude when he does receive them—thus strengthening the relationships even more.

By yielding your rights and expectations to God, you are making a choice to trust His sovereignty in all things and look to Him to ultimately meet all of your needs. The Psalmist David spoke of this trust in Psalm 62:1, 5: “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. . . . My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”

This material was adapted from pages 99–101 of the Basic Seminar Follow-Up CourseOffsite Link.

For Further Study

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