“You can’t run a society or cope with its problems if people are not held accountable for what they do” (John Leo).
WHEN OTHERS REFUSE TO BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS, IT’S EASY TO SEE THE PROBLEM; IT’S A BIT HARDER TO SEE IT, HOWEVER, WHEN WE’RE THE ONES WHO’RE MAKING EXCUSES. At times, we can be so subtle in dodging personal responsibility that we deceive our own selves into thinking that it’s somebody else’s fault. Most of us jump into the “blame game” far too eagerly.
The word “accountable” means answerable. Since it contains the word “account,” let’s use the metaphor of bookkeeping to illustrate it. If I accept accountability, that means I’m willing to let other people “audit my books.” I’m willing for my deeds to be examined against fair standards of right and wrong, and if the audit shows that I’ve done anything amiss, then I’m willing to compensate anyone who’s been hurt and make restitution to the full extent of my ability.
Accepting accountability requires three things, at the very least.
Conscience. We must admit there are standards we’re answerable to and then have the humility to be guided by those standards.
Commitment. We must discipline ourselves to demonstrate integrity. That is, we must commit ourselves to doing what’s right and maintain consistency between our principles and our practice.
Courage. We must be willing to accept the consequences of everything we do — and face the firing squad of full justice, if need be.
Accepting full and frank accountability for our own actions is one of the best things we can do for those around us. It’s a gift of great value, and one that’s made all the more valuable by the fact that it’s so rare these days. When others know that we can be counted on to do our best, and that when we’ve failed to do what’s right, we’ll spend our time making restitution rather than making excuses, they will find a peace and security in their relationship with us that can’t be found any other way. It’s not a complicated matter, really. It’s just a bit of basic morality, a fundamental principle of right and wrong.
“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury” (John Stuart Mill).