Self Accountability: The Narrow Path
As the youngest of six children, I have heard and been involved in more disagreements and arguments with my siblings than you would probably believe. Bumping heads was a commonplace when we were all under one roof because even though we all came from the same two parents, we were still very different with varying ideas on how the end result on any topic should be. My fair and impartial parent never took sides; it wasn't about who was right or wrong to them. Their outlook was always for us to learn from the altercation so we could grow to be accountable for our own actions. 'What did you do to cause this argument?', 'Did you apologize?, 'What could you have done differently to avoid the disagreement?' were questions to all parties involved in our home.
Being an adult, I still ask myself these questions when I have altercations with others. "Nikki, what was your part in this situation?', 'Did you sincerely apologize and offer a way to amend for what you did?', 'Next time, if this arises, what will you do to avoid this?' are on replay internally, often to a fault. I know if I take full assessment of myself, no one else will have to and that, in my opinion, is the narrow path of self accountability.
By definition, self accountability is the act of being responsible for your own words, actions and behaviors. If you have done something to someone else, intentionally or by mistake, taking the steps to correct your actions, by any means necessary, shows maturity and respect. The old adage, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' comes to mind when I think of being self accountable. I'm going to freely offer to someone else that I have wronged, the actions and behaviors that I would want freely offered to me if I was wronged. These steps of correction could be as simple as a conversation to clear up a misunderstanding, a sincere apology followed by repentant behavior or as major as financially replacing what the other person lost due to your error.
So why do I refer to self accountability as a narrow path? Unfortunately, many people choose a wider path of making someone else the fall guy for their actions or completely disregarding their words or actions altogether as being physically, mentally or emotionally harmful to someone else. Here's a test: you're driving down the street and accidentally hit a parked car. Do you, 1) keep driving, 2) get out, assess that the damage isn't 'that' bad and then drive away or 3) find the owner or leave your contact and insurance information on the car windshield? How about one more test: You get angry with a coworker over a business expectation and openly bash them to other people in the office about something unfortunate in their personal life. Do you, 1) say they deserved it, 2) dismiss your actions under the guise that you were angry or 3) openly apologize to the co-worker and everyone else in the office. Those that have a high level of self accountability would without hesitation choose option 3 for both tests.
Quite honestly, it take great levels of character to look internally at what you've done and how those actions may have affected someone else negatively. Maturity is one of those characteristics that sticks out most to me. It's the fact of realizing that everything is not all about you and this world is full of people with varying feelings, thoughts and experiences. Going back to the first test, option 2 may seem ok to do. But think about it like this: the damage may not seem bad to you, but the owner may be living paycheck to paycheck and their insurance just lapsed and they don't have the funds to fix a car that you damaged.
As I think about the current climate of our world when it comes to Black Lives Matter, I feel a component of the fight is the desire for self accountability. We're all humanly equal and it's our thoughts and actions that reflect our truth on whether this is a personal belief or myth. If the answer is always to walk the wide path, by pointing the finger at another person because of your fear or lack of understanding or care of who they fundamentally are, as the reason or justification of your behavior, no growth or change will ever occur.
I thank my parents for many things, but teaching my siblings and myself this life lesson is definitely high on the list. As they believed, it's not about right and wrong...once forgiveness comes into play, right or wrong disappears. It's about being able to look in the mirror at myself with a smile and know that I've offered and done all that I could to bring peace and reconciliation.