Who are You Accountable To?

I have often wondered about accountability. By definition, accountability means: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. However, if you look around at who the world press shines the light of focus on; athletes, actors, politicians, and world leaders, this basic moral responsibility or accountability seems to be unimportant. Even when you look at society in the United States, the “push” for acceptance over accountability, is the predominate thinking. Is it acceptable to circumvent or avoid accountability? If we do manage to avoid accountability, is there anyone that can say we were wrong to do so? Lastly, if this is true, then to whom are we held accountable? These are the questions and ideas that I want to explore in more depth.

As a child, most of us learned accountability in one form or another. Our parents would tell or ask us to complete some sort of task, and if we chose to not to complete the task, we would suffer some sort of consequence. Now I would agree that parental styles vary widely, however, most parents would correct their children in one way or another. The parents would hold their child accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. It appears to me though, that over the last generation or two, whether it was the persistence (or insistence) of the child, or the apathetic (or lazy) demeanor of the parent; at some point, the consequences stopped. Let’s consider an obscure scenario…

Consider this; you are an alien life form looking down from your distant galaxy, you’ve observed how children treat their parents, children are FORCED to go to “learning institutions” where they are feared by the adults, and you’ve observed how the majority of children treat “authority figures”. Who would you think is in charge of this planet? What would you think of the future of this planet?

In the above example, it appears that the children are in charge and there is no accountability, except for the adults. Children are permitted to act out on their impulses without fear of repercussion or consequence. Adults, even authority figures, are afraid to exert any form of control over the children. This is because the adults are the ones who are being held accountable for their actions. Adults are not teaching the children the value of accountability, therefore the children have no respect for authority. In this example, being accountable is still relevant, but in the wrong way. In this upside down, spiraling out of control world example, individuals are being held accountable, just by the wrong group. This scenario plays out the same even when you substitute the focus of the world press. Athletes, actors, politicians, and world leaders, all appear to be above accountability. It is always someone else’s fault or job. How can this be? When did accountability become a bad thing?

It appears that avoiding; or perhaps more accurately, redirecting accountability, has become the societal standard. As a child, I often tried to avoid accountability. I would blame my siblings or friends for my actions. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Either way, at a young age I realized that if I were able to avoid consequences for my actions, that was better than the alternative. Circumventing or avoiding accountability is the way of the world today, nothing is our fault and we can always find a way to justify anything…

“Our parents were too hard on us”. “We were traumatized or abused by a teacher or family member”. “Our favorite athlete or actor gets away with things”. “The President of the United States doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions”.

As an adult (over the age of 18), I still tried to avoid being accountable whenever possible. As a young Marine, this was not an easy task. However, because I had “perfected” the art of dodging accountability as a child, it was not impossible, at least in my mind. I still suffered consequences for bad choices, but I always found a way to justify these “misfortunes” to myself. “My actions today, were because of things that had happened to me in the past”. This is a cop-out. Our actions, are exactly that, our actions. Do not misunderstand, I am not saying that bad things don’t happen through no fault of our own. I am saying however, that at some point we have deal with our own “baggage”, grow up, and be responsible and accountable for and to ourselves. So in answer to the first question: Is it acceptable to circumvent or avoid accountability? The answer is: NO!

We have a responsibility, not only to ourselves to grow up and be accountable, but to society as a whole. There is an old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. Ever wonder where this saying came from? I did, because it ties directly to what I am writing about. If we don’t stand up and be accountable for our actions, thoughts, positions, or beliefs; than anything or anyone, can over run us and assert their will or agenda over ours.

I found that the earliest occurrence of these words were in a Methodist church announcement in an Iowa newspaper from 1926. [1] The word order and meaning were distinct, but the keywords were the same. In 1927 the same words were printed as a “Sermon-o-gram” in an Ohio newspaper:[2]

It is easier to fall for anything than to stand for something.

The earliest evidence of a close match was published in the January 1945 issue of a journal called “Mental Hygiene”. At the time of publication World War II was still being fought. The adage appeared in an article by the medical doctor Gordon A. Eadie titled “The Over-All Mental-Health Needs of the Industrial Plant, with Special Reference to War Veterans”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: [3]

We are trying to show him not only what we are fighting against, but what we are fighting for. So many of these boys have only a very hazy idea of the real issues of the war. About all they see is “going back to the good old days.” This is a dangerous state. If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything. They need to realize that we are fighting two wars—the war of arms and the war of ideas—that other war of which the war of arms is one phase.

Yes I may be taking a little literary license by saying “standing for something” is the same as accountability. However if we reexamine the definition of accountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions, I think the two are synonymous.

I find it interesting that the earliest modern reference to these words (the quote) were from a Christian religion in 1927. It was so obvious to Christians almost 100 years ago, that individuals needed to be accountable, that they were preaching it in there church’s. Equally as interesting is that 70 years ago, a Doctor recognized “The Over-All Mental-Health Needs…” of an individual needed to include accountability. By avoiding accountability, we are refusing to take a stand. We are, in essence, saying our actions are not our own. We are saying that we can be easily manipulated, to bow to pressure, and act according to others beliefs instead of our own. Is this who we want to be? Are we so afraid of being accountable, we are willing to let others make decisions and policy for us? Are we willing to let others dictate our actions? So in answer to the second question: If we do manage to avoid accountability, is there anyone that can say we were wrong to do so? The answer is: YES!

Prior to the modern published references to the aforementioned quote, being accountable is as old as the world. In the Bible (New Living Translation/NLT) there are five (5) occurrences of the word “accountable” and they all point to being accountable to God. Numbers 5:31Deuteronomy 29:29Hosea 8:13, Hebrews 4:13Hebrews 13:17. Even a concordance search for the word “accountability” brings up a Bible (NLT) verse. The word “accountability” isn’t used in the verse but the meaning conveys.

Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

We have been given many gifts from Christ. Love, Grace, Forgiveness, and Salvation are just a few. Beyond all those however, we have been given Free Will. Free Will is a gift from God that we all exercise every day. The others, because of Free Will, we have the option as to whether or not we want to accept those gifts. The amazing thing about God and faith, is that should we choose to believe, He is always there in spite of ourselves. There is nothing we can do, to alienate ourselves from God – let me say that again – nothing we can do, to alienate ourselves from God. Even if we choose not to believe in God, that doesn’t stop His Love for us. His Love, Grace, Forgiveness, and Salvation are ALWAYS there and ready for us. All we have to do is repent and truly ask for the gift of Salvation.

God wants, even yearns for our obedience to His Will. He desires our accountability, to the point that He spells out the consequences for our lack of accountability throughout the Bible. He provides us with account after account, of people avoiding responsibility and accountability, of living for themselves instead of Him, and the consequences they suffer for such actions. God wants our love and attention and spells it out for us in clear and concise words and examples. Neither societies, individuals, kings, nor paupers are beyond God’s judgement. He will hold us accountable for our actions. If everything we do is with God in mind first, then we will never have to worry about our accountability. So in answer to my final question: Lastly, if this is true, then to whom are we held accountable? The answer is: GOD FIRST, OURSELVES SECOND, and SOCIETY THIRD!

In what order are your priorities placed????

[1] 1926 May 27, State Center Enterprise, Church Announcements: Methodist Mention, Quote Page 1, Column 4, State Center, Iowa. (Newspaper Archive)

[2] 1927 July 29, Athens Messenger, Sermon-o-grams, Quote Page 8, Column 7, Athens, Ohio. (Newspaper Archive)

[3] 1945 January, Mental Hygiene, Volume 29, Number 1, “The Over-All Mental-Health Needs of the Industrial Plant, with Special Reference to War Veterans” by Gordon A. Eadie, M.D. (Affiliation: Eastern Aircraft Division, General Motors Corporation, Linden, New Jersey), Start Page 101, Quote Page 103, Published by the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)

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