I think that accountability misses a lot. For so long it has been touted as important.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for responsibility. My question is: why, if we are so into accountability, do we live in a world that is such a mess? Even the most developed countries have a problem.
It suggests that we need to take a look. Perhaps our ideas about accountability are too limited.
What Is Accountability?
According to Wikipedia, accountability is:
- the expectation of account-giving.
That sounds about right. We are answerable for meeting our assumed obligations to ourselves and others. Obligations are an implied contract and based on assumptions about our expectations.
This is where accountability can be problematic. What do we do when expectations are incorrect? even wildly off-base?
When Expectations Are Off-Base
Expectations are a very big deal. In fact if I were to survey the human landscape of problems, expectations would be at the top of my list of causes of human problems. Look at our environmental problems right now. Many people still think that they can expect our natural resources to provide for us without fail into perpetuity. That is a mistake of expectations that is having tragic consequences.
However, people who are working for companies who base their livelihoods on such assumptions are still “accountable” for whatever production quotas or other measurements that keep them employed. So here is a situation where accountability is a problem, in fact there are multiple accountabilities at play.
This means that accountability is not simple and should not be treated as a simple way to assign responsibility or blame.
Accountability Is Often Tactical
Accountability is often intended to protect what exists. It is designed to take care of existing relationships, existing organizational structures, existing wants and needs of a particular cultural system. It is what we expect from subordinates following assigned tasks. It is what is expected of us as subordinates. Some creativity may be necessary to achieve an objective but the objective itself is usually created elsewhere by someone else with more power and authority. This kind of accountability does not engage our full humanness and ability.
It is tactical execution.
Accountability is enlarged when we include strategic thinking since we now also consider the unknown and changing conditions as factors in our decision making and planning. So when actions take these factors into account, those actions are more honestly responsible than others.
We can do our best to be accountable, but in reality much is beyond our control and knowledge. Therefore we cannot expect perfect accountability from ourselves or others.
Accountability and Healing
I think that one of the best places for accountability is in our need to heal from emotional wounds. Such healing is everyone’s job. We are each of us responsible for our behavior. We have an obligation to own our early circumstances and the impact they have had on our lives and ability to function.
This is where we can have a wonderful impact on our own lives and others because the healing work we do is under our control. We can set our own goals, write in our journals, notice our pain and the pain of others. We can listen to the social energy around us and evaluate our contribution to it. We can listen to others talk about their challenges and see ourselves in their struggles. We can notice when something does not work and try to understand it. We can see when a connection is missed, an interaction denied, a kindness withheld.
We can observe the hope and despair around us. We can acknowledge the fragility in ourselves and others. We can respect our needs and notice how many are unmet.
Creating Real Accountability
Our inner healing is the best place for us to develop true responsibility. All the laws in the world cannot touch our capacity to notice, act, lift up and soothe ourselves and each other. All the speeches and lecture given by leaders and teachers are no match for our intention. Nothing inspires us more than experience and nothing destroys inspiration more than experience.
Our healing journey is a journey to creating a new and different experience. When we make the journey we are in fact also making a journey toward greater accountability, the accountability that comes from being present. That is where accountability starts: in being present.
When we heal ourselves, that is the gift we give to the world. It is a wonderful gift to give.