Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Accountability is not just for Accountants!

Accountability has become a big deal for me. At times in my life, I have run away from accountability or any situation in which I felt that I would be held accountable. Even now, I do not relish being held accountable for the stupid things that I still, from time to time, do. But, I am making a concentrated effort, particularly in my work life, volunteer life, and in my relationships, to be accountable and to hold the people I care about accountable.

Accountability to me is not a prejorative term. I believe that when I am held accountable (no matter how much I hate it) I am being helped to grow and become a better person. Now I have been on the receiving end of negative emotional fueled accountability, and I have been the recipient of loving accountability. The type of accountability that I am talking about and support is loving accountability...loving accountability is a process in which the humanity, fallibility, and worth of the person you are holding accountable is forefront in the accountability process.

Today, I had two interactions that have made me think about accountability. I received a rather terse email from an individual with whom, in the past, I have only had pleasant and mutual respectful interactions. But, our last few interactions have been characterized on his part by a cold, standoffish bitchiness that caught me off guard. So, today, I responded to his email with a gentle response and brought up to him that I had noticed a change in our interactions and that if there was something for which I needed to be held accountable to please bring it to my attention. He wrote back another short and snippy email that was briefly accusatory (he said I do not follow through with my promises), and I responded explaining what I knew of the promise I made (to attend a series of meetings when I could) and explaining also that I had started a new job in late winter which meant that I could not attend any meetings. I then asked him if there was something else to which I had committed myself for which I did not follow through. He responded with silence.

The second interaction I had came just this evening while attending the kick-ass Allies for Justice dinner. Lately, the board of directors of Headwaters has been engaged in some very emotional and complicated decision making processes around a range of issues. The processes involved have sometimes been less than ideal, including a process that happened earlier this week. A board member that I highly respect, in my opinion, dropped the ball in such a way that it caused more complications in an already complicated process. Avoiding Minnesota Nice, I called her immediately, expressed my concerns in a voicemail, and I asked her to return my phone call so we could discuss the matter further. She chose not to return my phone call and then, tonight, when I saw her in person, she gave me the cold shoulder as well. In this situation, I was taken by surprise, particularly since I was the one that had asked her to be accountable. I greeted her warmly, and she responded in a way that I thought was far far beneath her.

In both circumstances I was dealing with individuals far older than myself that were acting like people half my age. Both are members of the social justice community in Minneapolis and both are queer. We belong to a small community in which these sorts of issues become wedges that keep us from working case one: I offered to be accountable if necessary and that offer was ignored, and in case two: I asked for her accountability and that was also ignored. In both situations I was not interested in somene being right and someone being wrong. I was (and still am) interested in a dialogue that allows all folks involved to express their feelings and to figure out how to acknowledge the situation, rememdy it, and begin the process of rebuilding trust and relationships.

I am not saint. I fuck up constantly. And I also have done exactly what these two folks did today. So please read that I am in no way offering myself as an example of the meritorious human being that always does the right thing and is ready to own up to his shit at all times. That is far from the mark. But I do feel, that when someone offers you a chance to reconcile and move on that it should be a no brainer that you do the brief work to figure things out instead of creating more drama and more issues that will, most likely, need to be addressed one way or the other.


  1. It's so nice to see people move through the natural process of personal growth... You my dear one are very age appropriate, should you care to know... :)

    Learning to be accountable is, like many other personal traits, well... personal. One does not need others to hold one self accountable. One knows the commitments one makes and the promises not kept. When we hold others accountable for holding us accountable we set ourselves up for disappointment because, alas, others are also human such as ourselves and they, too, are going through their own crap. Like Don Miguel Ruiz tells us, "we create our own dream" and we don't know what that dream looks like from where we stand, which is why he also asks us to not make assumptions and to not take it personally. When encountered with silence in such situations I usually translate it to, "run to the mirror and be honest with yourself." It tells me that I must look at myself, my words, my actions and be gently honest with myself. I know why I have or have not acted. I know why I have not followed through. I don't need someone telling me, aside from the fact that I resent it because I already know! A while back I was struggling with forgiving my sibbling for being the naturally, irresponsable idiot that he can't help being; a dear friend of mine told me, after I spelled out all my requirements for my forgiveness - which involved taking responsibiity and accountability, "who the fuck are you that people have to walk on coals to get your forgiveness?" After I got through being pissed off at him for not backing me up, I knew, of course, that he was right - and we hate him for that. Ultimately, I am not responsible for someone else's dream. I am only responsible for my own. If you and I agree to do something or collaborate on a task and you do not fulfill your end of the bargain, I can remind you of what you promise, but you hold yourself responsible not me. If you leave me hanging, I know that I cannot collaborate with you in the future and will not do so. If I care about you enough, I will figure out what I can count on you for and not expect more from you. If I really really care about you I'll whack you outside the head and hold you accountable. But, that's personal and that's me and my dream. Not all people have read Don Miguel Ruiz and I cannot hold them accountable nor expect them to live their dream as I live mine :)~

    - I may have posted this twice, 'cause I woke up pretty!

  2. oh vinnie...thanks for reminding me of our friend Don Miguel. You are so so so so so so right.


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