Virtutes Romanae: Richard Armitage and Responsibilitas

I was talking to my Intro class yesterday about Plato’s Republic…specifically about the criteria required for one to become a Philosopher-King in Plato’s ideal state- yes, I know, it’s a veritable carnival of fun in Prof. Obscura’s classroom!  In any case, one of the criteria Plato identifies is an ideal age…40-ish, young enough to still be physically strong, and mature enough to employ reason.  The 18-20 year olds in the crowd are skeptical that the “olds” would make better kings, but I point out that, with age, comes experience which theoretically assists in the process.   One of the natural offshoots of this is the increased capacity for personal responsibility – accountability if you will.  Not only must the philosopher king be a good and just ruler, but as such, he must be able to accept responsibility for his decisions.

This is something that a lot of people, especially young people struggle with.  It is a daily parenting challenge for me…a pet peeve even.  Case in point.  Last summer, I won an iPad3…yes won – free to me – yay!!!  All was rosy for about two weeks until I asked my then 13 year old son to carry it to the car for me.  He did, and as I was coming out the door, I watched him accidentally drop it.  It landed on one corner on the concrete driveway.  The conversation went something like this:

Yeah, it looked a little something like this...

Yeah, it looked a little something like this…

Me:  Did you just drop the iPad?

Him:  No..

Me:  I watched you do it.   Is it broken?  (I could plainly see that the display was severely cracked)

Him:  No – You should have put it in a case.  (true, but not the central point here)

Me:  Just admit that you dropped it and apologize – I know it was an accident

Him:  *insert cricket sound effect*

I wanted nothing more than for him to take responsibility for his actions – well, I wanted an unbroken iPad, but accidents do happen – however, he is incredibly stubborn about this kind of stuff to this day.  It is something that will almost certainly incite future battles between us.

This notion of personal responsibility and accountability is summed up in the Roman virtue of RESPONSIBILITAS… What?  OK, OK  – you caught me wordsmiths!  Responsibilitas is not actually a Latin word…the concepts related to responsibility really fall under the Virtutes Romanae of GRAVITAS, but I already talked about that one here, and this topic has been weighing on my mind.  Richard Armitage certainly embodies the qualities of GRAVITAS, and I’ve seen very little behavior in his public life that would suggest that he has any lingering adolescent tendency to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.  In fact, his professional reputation suggests exactly the opposite.  It is something to which we all could aspire.

Richard Armitage reacts and responds to a question with gravitas

Richard Armitage reacts and responds to a question with gravitas

There is no one who is infallible – we all make mistakes from time….we misspeak, we mishear, we misunderstand, we overreact.  Mistakes are a part of life, but how we choose to deal with them can define us.    Mistakes can be embarrassing, but attempts to wriggle out of them even more so, especially if we insinuate someone else’s culpability to excuse our own.  Perhaps the best, most responsible reaction is to say from the start, “Mea culpa – (Latin for  “my bad”)  I goofed, I misspoke, I misunderstood, I overreacted..boy is my face red!”   I’m challenging myself to do this as a matter of course – no matter how much toner I need to balance out my complexion.  You can hold me to it!

63 comments on “Virtutes Romanae: Richard Armitage and Responsibilitas

  1. katie70 says:

    I think that it is in human nature to not owe up to the truth, but I try to so that I give my boys a good example. Watching the students at school, it seems to happen a lot. No one did anything, but someone had to.

    Son1 hates when I tell him that I don’t know something, but I rather be truthful to him than lie and give him wrong information.

  2. This particular quality is *so important* to me, and is so sadly lacking in the people around me. I can say without having to pause to consider it that this is absolutely one of the qualities about Richard that made me go from idly curious Hobbit fan post-movie-viewing to avid RArmy member.

    • obscura says:

      You know, it’s really hard to be sure about things like this, since what we know is so sparse really, but in some senses the validation can be made from the lack of evidence to the contrary. In a world where people, not just celebrities make complete asses of themselves on a regular basis, then initiate damage control protocol, RA really does seem to be an exception. Of course there is the possibility that I’m completely mistaken…boy won’t my face be red?

  3. What you are talking about here is a big deal to me. Huge. I have ended relationships – both intimate and long term and simple friendships – because of this human flaw that many take for granted or somehow find acceptable behavior.

    If it is obvious to me that someone has made a mistake, where simple ownership or an apology is all it takes to close an issue, then I now expect an apology or at least an acknowledgment of the mistake. I used to not. I used to let it slide. I found out the hard way that this leads people to believe that that kind of behavior is okay, where they will certainly continue doing it. The most negative affect on me was not to my ego, but due to the internalizing of the anger and pain I felt, where I managed to blame myself for their mistake or told myself that my own feelings weren’t important enough to pursue such an apology or acknowledgment.

    So…I applaud you for your approach with your son. You may not yet have the response you want from him, but he is aware at least that it is not okay, and that you are going to notice, acknowledge, and expect him to do the right thing by you.

    • obscura says:

      It is a huge trust issue for me in my personal relationships. I can forgive just about anyone of anything if they will simply own the mistake. It sucks, I know it…who likes to admit error? I certainly don’t, but it’s got to be done…I told my kids that I’m not wrong a lot, but when I am, I’ll let you know :). There’s no sense trying to play the omniscient card. This was particularly damaging to me when it was a clergy person who refused to ever acknowledge culpability…the result was a constant implication that I or someone else had erred. Too many instances of that made it impossible for me to trust a person who was supposed to be a spiritual guide…very disillusioning.

      Kids…I look forward to the day that they will thank me for all of my carping on them 🙂

      • 🙂 Re the former, my feelings exactly, with similar experiences. I also had an issue with a member of the clergy, but not quite as serious. He just couldn’t answer a question properly and kept referring to Text – which just wasn’t enough for me. It wasn’t a lie, nor was he particularly wrong, but it certainly had everything to do with asking for blind trust without support or merit.

        In regards to the latter, I truly hope so also for you. 🙂

  4. The Business Dictionary online defines responsibility as:

    “A duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one’s own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty for failure.”

    As I have mentioned several times in my blogs, I was blessed with wonderful parents who lived what they preached. One of the things they emphasized the most was personal integrity, honesty and responsibility. I learned this lesson as a young child. My mother used to shop at a local small business that sold gifts and other curiosities. The store was owned by the husband of one of her friends in our neighborhood.

    On a lovely afternoon, I walked with her the two city blocks to the store. I think I was 5 yrs. old then. When we began to walk back home, Mom noticed that I was unwrapping a piece of candy. She stopped walking, bent down to face me and asked, “Where did you get that candy?” Initially, I reacted like your son, with utter silence. When she asked again, I confessed that I had nicked it from the floor of the store, where it had fallen (either a previous customer accidentally dropped it or it fell when the owner was restocking the crystal jars).

    She said: “I am glad you did not take it from the jar, but you did leave the store without us paying for it. Now we need to go back so you can apologize to Mr. ________ and return it.” As you can imagine, I began to wail and plead with her to spare me the embarrassment. “No, no, please…”. Of course, she did not budge. Down the hill we went again with me crying all the way there. My dear mother told the owner that I had something to tell him, then gave me a nudge.

    Between sobs, I said: “I saw this candy on the floor and took it without paying and my Mom says that is wrong and I should apologize. I’m sorry.” I handed it over and hung my head in shame. He said: “I am very pleased that you have returned my candy. You are a good, honest girl. It takes courage to admit you have done something wrong. I forgive you. Thank you for telling me the truth.” I stopped crying and no longer was my head hanging in shame. I did not feel guilty anymore.

    That early lesson laid the foundation in which I have built my character. I learned that personal integrity and honor take work, and that they speak volumes about your character. I am grateful.

    As for Richard, I believe his integrity is the basis for all his virtues, and the reason he is known as ‘a decent man’, ‘a lovely man’. ‘a good man’. He learned those values at home, from his parents. Of that I am certain. That is why he has said he has ‘a strict moral code’ and describes himself as ‘old-fashioned’. I admire him as a man because his physical beauty truly is a manifestation of his soul.

    Your son is blessed to have you as his mother. I hope he learns from your example and grows up to become a man of great integrity, someone who can be trusted and emulated. Thank you for this post. It has brought back cherished memories. 🙂

    • obscura says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words and touching story…those moments in life really resonate don’t they? It is so worth it to take the time and trouble to teach them. I agree that it certainly appears that RA was raised in a down to earth household that expected certain behaviors, and it shows 🙂

  5. After re-reading, I realize that this certainlly made it look like I made a habit of ending relationships just because someone did not own-up. What I was referring to in the above was repeated events over time, where their was at least some attempted communication but the same behavior would happen repeatedly by the same person(s). It’s just that now, if it happens, it is a big red flag for me and says volumes about that person – especially if they are my age and still can’t own up to their mistakes or make a simple apology. That shows a lack of growth and I am too old to raise adult children.

  6. Reblogged this on crystalchandlyre and commented:
    This Blogger has written about something I feel very strongly about.

  7. Joanna says:

    He is too young to know what is sexy 😉

  8. Perry says:

    I agree taking responsibility and meeting responsibilities are important attributes, and that Richard Armitage, at least with respect to the latter has demonstrated them. And I think he would accept responsibility for mistakes. What mistakes has he so far made and accepted responsibility for? I can’t think of any and I am only raising the question for informational purposes.

    • obscura says:

      That is a more difficult one…unlike a lot of celebrities, he doesn’t seem to step in it regularly -which is a virtue itself in his industry I suppose – so there’s not a lot of data. There was the “pants hitting the window” thing a few years ago. This was before my initiation, but evidently it caused quite a kerfluffle and he was pretty quick to apologize….not sure if this is a case of him making a mistake or others over reacting though…depends on one’s perspective I guess.

  9. micra1 says:

    One of the main problem in Italian society presently is inability by parents to acknowledge their sons/daughters can make mistakes. Kids are always right, teachers (or other adults) always wrong. The poor kids are misunderstood, that’s way they can’t do decently in school. The poor baby was drunk, so he destroyed a car with a hammer, but it was a joke (I’m not telling lies, this actually happened this summer in my vacation residential Park). This attitude are bringing a huge disaster in family, school and employment in Italy. Nobody ever take own responsibility for anything. The result is a Country going nuts. Taking responsibility of our own actions is the key to adult age, to be a real man – woman. Teaching kids to take their own responsibility is needed to help them to become a decent person. And yes, I agree with Alyssa about Richard. His human qualities (including the one we are talking here) brought me from being a curious person that wanted to see the face of the actor doing Thorin to a devoted RArmy member.

    • obscura says:

      Ugh…we see that here too. It’s a balancing act I think – (Oh, hi there sophrosyne!). Yes, parents need to be advocates for their kids, but they can’t lose sight that they *are kids* and still require boundaries, instruction, and most likely, correction. Responsibility is a bit like acquiring another language…it’s a lot easier to teach when kids are young…the older they get, the harder it is to penetrate. Maybe someone should open a Personal Responsibilty Immersion School :).

      • A Personal Responsibility Immersion School? I like the sound of that!

        • obscura says:

          IKR?! How does one get credentialed for that I wonder?

          • I do a lot of calling people out on exercising personal responsibility when I edit. I consider that if you keep sending me the same mistakes I’ve already corrected, you’re just wasting both our time and I’ll say so. When they say they had a feeling I’d comment on something, I’m pretty testy about asking why they didn’t fix it themselves. If you know better, don’t do it. It’s my job to polish your work, not hold your hand and teach you how to words.

            So I may not be an accredited Personal Responsibility Coach, but I feel like I’m racking up the hours of experience. 😉

          • obscura says:

            Yeah, my profession is no small part of why this is a sore spot…yesterday I had a student email me for more help in the class…I’ve assisted with a tutor, given extra time to take a test – not enough..I need “help” with basically every assignment she says…the fact that she is evidently wholly unprepared for college (this is 101) is not really the pertinent issue. What really annoyed me was that she wants me help her, but then doesn’t bother to show up for class 15 minutes later. She doesn’t want help, she wants someone to do it for her -right down to reading the class calendar so as to be aware of due dates. She’s the worst case of this I’ve seen in a while, and that’s saying something!

      • micra1 says:

        Oh yes, it would be really useful! 😉

  10. guylty says:

    There is no doubt that responsibility is a fundamental characteristic all humans should strive for. Sadly, I feel that we are not really being shown how important it is for society at large and social/familial groups in the smaller context to function properly. Just look at the people who are supposedly in charge of our countries, who ought to be models for us – you rarely see a politician, who is charged with the highly ethical task of leading a country, take responsibility for mistakes. Unless they have fucked up so spectacularly that they have no other choice but accept responsibility…
    As for RA – no idea how or whether he personally embodies that. Are there any examples of mistakes where he assumed responsibility? Remember, Obscura – in his own words, he is “never wrong”, so there is no responsibility for him to take. 😀 Well, only responsibility for successes then, but that is not nearly as hard as taking the consequences of being wrong on board… Of course I like the idea that he is big/confident/clever enough to assume responsibility for mistakes – demi-God Richard… but I am aware that that is merely wishful thinking…

    • obscura says:

      That is probably at least part of the reason that this issue is so forward in my head…all I have to do is look at my duly elected Congresspeople to find shining negative examples…for many of whom there will be no real accountability. It really does make these lessons more difficult to teach and to embody when you look on the international stage and see such a wealth of unfathomable idiocy.

      RA? Listen smart ass – stop screwing up my analogy :). This is a much harder one to flesh out..I own that, especially when he cheekily makes pronouncements of infallibility…I mean really, would it kill him to play along here? See my reply to Perry below…”pants on hitting the window”?

      • guylty says:

        Sorry, in snarky let’s-throw-a-spanner-in-the-works mood, today. Don’t mind me! (Connected to the fact that I lost my entire original ficlet that I had been labouring over for the next *ooof*, today. I am redirecting my anger, it seems…)

        • obscura says:

          Bring it on, I’m no stranger to snark myself sister…I can handle it – I’m just sorry to hear the cause! No eed to apologize, but that you were ready to do so indicates that you have enough retroactive accountability credits to fast track through responsibility immersion …your badge is in the mail 😉

          • guylty says:

            Not sure if I deserve a badge, but I appreciate the compassion :-D. I am on the way to recovery (of equilibrium, not document :-()

          • obscura says:

            I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to recreate documents that I either didn’t save correctly, or saved to thumb drives that I lost…I have lost months of my life to this…maybe even years! I’m glad your recovery is nigh!

    • Actually, ‘S’, right off the top of my head I can think of three times where Richard has shown his sense of responsibility. The first one was in an interview about Sparkhouse, where he talked about his audition for the role. He explained that for the first time ever in his young career, he showed up at the audition dressed for the part and went on to explain he believes it was a big part of the reason they hired him. Furthermore, he stated that from then on he realized he needed to prepare well for his auditions, do his research and look the part (when feasible, of course). In this case, he owned up for his previous failure to get good roles on television. We all know that Standring got his foot in the door to the BBC’s auditions for Thornton.

      The second time I can remember was when he talked about preparing to play John Porter. He mentioned in an interview to Lorraine (the reporter who has interviewed him for many years and is always gushing about Harry Kennedy), that he felt he owed the real English soldiers to practice intensely so that he knew how to hold and fire the weapons, how to come across as one of them onscreen. To me, that shows accountability and respect.

      A third instance has to do with how concerned and adamant he was about bringing Thorin Oakenshield to life in a manner that portrayed honor, nobility and great prowess in battle. He said that – as a fan of the books himself – he would be really upset if some ‘idiot actor’ came along and thought he knew better than Tolkien himself how the characters behaved (or something to that effect – I can’t remember the exact quote). He was so worried that he did not unpack for three weeks, certain that he’d be fired and sent back home to London. We all remember how his fellow actors gasped incredulously when Richard said that to Ann Curry. They were stunned! If that doesn’t show a sense of professional responsibility, I don’t know what does.

      As for his personal life, he said in an interview for the Financial Times that he is careful with his money, being frugal and prudent. He also mentioned that he is generous with his parents because he knows they sacrificed much for him, that his mother took on a job so he could attend school in Coventry and learn music, dance and everything else he needed to create a foundation in which he could later develop and hone his craft. He said they deserve everything he can give them, that he loves them and wants to see them happy. Those of you who are familiar with the 10 commandments know that one of them is to “Honor thy father and thy mother…”. Richard clearly feels a sense of duty towards his parents (and family), fueled by love and motivated by gratitude. That shows responsibility, and I know very well what I’m talking about in this particular case.

      We also know that Richard officially supports four charities in Great Britain, and he has mentioned that he donates autographed items to be auctioned for charity. He shows social responsibility.

      He recently expressed a new found desire to learn about sustainable energy and to build a house that meets the recognized ‘Green’ standards of the construction industry. In a time when most people could care less about preserving our natural resources and cleaning up the environment, Richard is showing an awakening of his responsibility towards conservation.

      Last, but not least, he takes seriously the responsibility to set a good example of ‘civilized’ behavior in public and – as those of us who are tumblr bloggers know – he took the time to send a beautiful and encouraging handwritten letter to the young lady who visited Stone Street Studios during filming as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s program. I cried when I read it, and maybe you did too. It was a very thoughtful gesture from a man who is extremely busy.

      Even though I didn’t talk about many specific ‘mistakes’, he has admitted that he can’t shoot well with a bow and arrow, that when he was playing Guy of Gisborne his horse took off with him , that he could not get him to stop and that members of the crew were running behind him yelling in Hungarian, asking him to stop the horse. So, yes, he lets us know about things that went wrong.

      To those of you who remain awake through this litany – (Hopefully one?) – I thank you for not killing me. 😉

      • guylty says:

        Those are all wonderful examples of responsibility, I agree. And you make a good case how well- reflected and aware he is about the development of his craft, what he owes his parents, supporters and the creators of the characters he plays, and how he has a responsibility as a member of society and the human race to make the world a better place. Well done, RA.
        However… Those are all fairly positive things to act responsible for. For me, the cookie crumbles when it comes to mistakes. Owning a mistake is where character and integrity show themselves. I’m not saying he doesn’t do that, merely that evidence of that, for obvious reasons, is not in the public realm. He’s a mortal, like all of us. Exemplary in many admirable ways. A muse. But human.
        And now shoot me! 😀

      • Kill you? I want to hug you!

  11. Twosocks says:

    Something I love about Armitage world–where else can you find fans talking about Plato’s REPUBLIC? There probably has never been a generation that did not complain about the younger generation (didn’t one Greek writer make such a comment?), but it just makes the point that this is not a “solve it once and for all” type of problem. It has to be taught over and over.

  12. kelbel75 says:

    even though it can be uncomfortable at times, in the long run it’s just easier to own up to your mistakes; trying to cover them up or explain all your varying excuses is exhausting! 😉 admitting that you’ve made mistakes and that you are not infallible puts you on a level playing field with those you are interacting with too; self-depreciation brings down those walls and lets you get straight to the enjoyment of just “being” with one another, instead of wasting so much time with ego. that’s one of those “age” things that take awhile to learn, though 🙂

  13. I can’t believe the connectivity of the Army. It’s barely 8:15am here. 2 people had ice cream last night. I was not one of them. There are 3 people who live here, me, my husband, and my mother. When I get up this morning there are 2 dirty ice cream bowls in the sink with dried chocolate syrup in them. I say “Who forgot to rinse out their ice cream dish last night?” Answer from the troops? “Not me, I washed mine.” When I said, “there are 2 dirty dishes in the sink.” “Oh. I thought you washed them.” “I thought you were going to wash them.” This is from adults. They are being punished. No ice cream tonight.

    • obscura says:

      Didn’t I mention that I’m psychic? (Or is it that this is just annoyingly regular human behavior?). It is a bit more difficult to swallow from adults isn’t it? I expect to correct children on these things, but I also expect adults to…we’ll be adults. Oops, my bad 🙂

      • Leigh says:

        It is quite rare for adults to behave like adults. One look at the news and Q.E.D., let alone the little household things like not cleaning up after oneself and then refusing to cop to it.

  14. […] virtues — responsible Richard Armitage. And a discussion of Thorin’s red cloak and […]

  15. Peggy Kincaid says:

    I agree with all that has been said here. Taking responsibility is a big deal in life and owning up to one’s mistakes is as well. As one who has those things in the past known only to myself that I’ve simply never known anyone well enough to confess them to, I agree totally that it is important to stand up and be counted. Mind you what is in the past aren’t things that no one knows as in a mistake that wasn’t admitted to, just the usual things many of us may have that we aren’t proud of doing. I’ve had to stand up and say I was wrong or I’m sorry and it certainly isn’t good but you do it because that is what is right and you owe it to whoever you may have wronged. Sometimes it is a mistake that isn’t a big deal and sometimes it is but still it is yours.

    We can’t know Richard well enough of course to know what mistakes he has made but I am pretty sure if asked he’d say he has made as many or more as we all have. My opinion is that he finds it as hard as any of us to admit to them but I’d bet he does his best to be responsible and own up when he does. Overall I’d say he is a good man but we’ll never know about the worst stuff because that is private. Anyone who has had even one intimate relationship will to admit to mistakes I’m sure or let’s just say if they are honest they will. As guylty says he is mortal just as we all are so that means he makes mistakes and missteps as we all do and unless one of us ever becomes close enough to him to find out how he deals with that, we’ll just have to agree that we hope he makes as good an effort at it as we all try to do.

    We do know generally that he is a very well liked man and for what that is worth it says that this isn’t a man that screws up all the time, takes credit where credit isn’t due at other’s expense and so on because that kind of person isn’t as respected as this man seems to be. Just my opinion. Opinions can be changed of course but as we have noted he has his public behavior impeccable and we never see or hear about his private life.

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