There is a picture forming in my head, with concepts spinning around, to do, I think, with accountability, but somehow all the words seem insufficient.
Like most of the world, I was reflecting on Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine and the fact that he was allowed to march into another sovereignty and begin killing, bombing and doing whatever he liked. And nobody could really stop him.
I’m aware that this is a very simplistic summary, but he’s not the first to invade somewhere and probably won’t be the last. Britain has done it’s share of invading too.
But my thoughts went mainly to the phenomenon of autocratic governments, dictators and those who set themselves up with absolute power. Like wannabe deities. What struck me was that they do not seem to be accountable, or answerable, to anyone!
At some point in the climb, either brute force, or charisma, or an established custom took the person to a place of power, where they then decided to assume total power, without consequence.
This is a dangerous place to be and seems to cause a kind of insanity. We know the expression, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
There is no boundary. If a person disagrees, or disobeys, they are likely to face punishment. They surround themselves with ‘yes-men’, who encourage them and, like some of our monarchs used to do, they satisfy their every whim at the expense of others, or else, ‘off with the head!
In our western democratic-style governments, leaders do not have absolute power (although Parliamentary Sovereignty is a very interesting notion), but they have their power limited to what will be accepted by the party they represent and by the voters. They have to win and maintain their position by persuasion, or else they are voted out. They are accountable to the status-quo maintained by the system and to the voters. If they overstep the mark and go off party lines, they can lose the job.
This happens in all levels of society – there are laws, rules, boundaries and expectations that most people follow in order to not face the punishment or consequences reserved for those who break the rules. This may be in school, within the family hierarchy, in the workplace and in society at large.
Most of us do not obey solely to avoid punishment. We obey sometimes out of love and respect for the leader, or because we respect the wisdom of laws and the standards such laws seek to protect and maintain.
All of us are accountable to someone in the pecking order. A parent, teacher, boss, spouse, group, organisation.
Even if one of them is a bully, they can only go so far, before the one to whom they are accountable calls them in.
I once witnessed a boy of only 10 years who was a tyrant to his helpless mother and completely without boundaries. It was very sad, in that he became obese in his boundless greed, was friendless because of his selfishness and rage and he became depressed.
You may have a parent who is a complete tyrant and bully at home, but they know they are breaking the law of the land and they live in some fear of being discovered and face the consequences of that law.
Accountability is an expectation and a check and balance with those to whom you are answerable. In a simple example, I promise something and I do it. You employ me, I do what you employ me to do.
There was once a time when I thought that accountability applied only as far as I didn’t get caught! But that was because I feared punishment. I feared all authority figures, but had little respect for most of them.
When I became a parent, I still struggled with the notion of discipline and consequences, but many years later, I now appreciate the value of boundaries. Boundaries set a safe limit and make us accountable. As humans, I now believe this is something we need for our general health and well-being.
Now I am grown up (ish), I choose to be accountable to others. It helps me to be disciplined and productive if I am to report success and failure honestly to others. When I gave up drinking, already seven years ago this month, I found it helped to announce the plan to family and to let them hold me accountable. AA was also great for this. To turn up, be transparent and answerable to the group is part of AA’s effectiveness. Of course, this also means others are there for you and they understand.
Another friend has chosen to report her targets and progress to me – also for that external accountability. It can be encouraging to have another celebrate those less public victories and successes.
I have chosen to acknowledge that I am always accountable to El Roi, to God who sees what is done, even in secret; to God who loves me unconditionally. I find the simplicity of keeping short accounts with my conscience, regularly acknowledging my honest faults and failings, this helps me to grow. I also know that each act of kindness is seen by the one that matters and I do not have to parade my virtues before others. This too is liberating.
I obey my conscience, not to avoid punishment now, but because I am loved.
I am so happy to be accountable to God and to others and to no longer seek to hide myself in the shadows. I find that this makes every thought, word and deed a special gift and a joy.
What are your thoughts on accountability?
Who do you consider yourself answerable to?