This week at work a customer came in looking to pick up a order that his boss had made over the phone. Upon searching for the order, me and my co-workers discovered that it was not in our system. This was peculiar, as it was the first time this had ever happened in my time working for my employer. Immediately my mind went to giving him the benefit of the doubt. “What if his boss forgot to call in?” “Maybe the order was done under a different account name?” In the middle of trying to find a solution for this man, he decided to call his boss. Loudly and for the whole company to hear he says, “These idiots don’t know how to do their job and can’t figure anything out.”
Over the phone, the boss describes to this man the person whom he believes helped him place the order. The customer in the store thinks I match the “description” and then of course accuses me of being the person responsible for this problem. Sigh. Thankfully, I am protected by the fact that my job duties don’t include placing orders. As I look across the room I see my co-worker mouthing a name, the name of a business located two blocks away from us. I turned back to the man and asked him if he could have possibly mistaken this other business for ours? His face went expressionless as the lightbulb turned on in his head and he turned away and left the room without saying another word. This man took no accountability for his actions. He came in called me and my co-workers names, he was rude and felt justified in it. He was proven foolish and in the wrong but still he left without expressing any remorse for what he had done.
One of the biggest lies that we can believe is that we are powerless victims of our own circumstance. We tend to avoid responsibility for our own conduct by blaming others for the contributing factors that led us inevitably to our negative actions. The path to wrong-doing was not our intention, the people involved hurt us and brought events to this outcome so logically we must not be 100% to blame. But does that logic really equal innocence? If someone hurts us in a major way, does it justify our retaliation? Even if our retaliation is small by comparison, can we weigh our slights against each other and find one to be just? Believing we can will only immobilize us, causing us to blame others for what we need to take responsibility for; our own hearts. Yes someone could have hurt you in a situation, but that does not make what you did permissible. Toxic people project their own character defects onto their victims. They do this by accusing the victim of the exact actions they themselves deny. More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them. Maturity comes when you stop making excuses and start making changes.
Another thing that will stop us from taking accountability is using our feelings to override the truth. You are always responsible for how you act, no matter how you feel. Moreover, your feelings are not always truth. Your feelings can and will lie to you. For example, just because I feel like someone thinks or believes something about me doesn’t make it the truth or a fact. Just because your pain is understandable does not mean your behaviour is acceptable. There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behaviour when he is wrong or hurting.
These are some of the things that you are accountable for:
• The way in which you communicate with others
• How you spend your time
• Your behaviour and manners
• The consideration and respect you show towards others
• Your attitude and thoughts
• The way you respond
Do not apologize for someone else’s feelings. “I’m sorry you’re mad,” is not an apology, it is condescending. Do apologize for your own actions and attitude. “I’m sorry I was rude,” is an apology that takes ownership. Be specific about what you did wrong. “I’m sorry for whatever made you mad” Is NOT going to work. Don’t add an excuse to your apology. I’m sorry I was rude, but I was really irritated,” means you’re not really sorry. You feel justified for the way you acted and you expect to be excused.
Do ask for forgiveness when you apologize: “I’m sorry,” on it’s own, is just a statement. It requires no response. “Will you forgive me?” is a humble request that can rebuild a relationship. When you ask your friend to forgive you, wait and listen. Be prepared for the response, “I need a minute, I’m not there right now.” When you are in the wrong, you are never owed forgiveness but be grateful when you do receive it. Don’t expect a reciprocal apology. For example, let’s say you were in a fight. You were both rude and hostile towards each other and now you’ve decided to be the brave one and apologize first. Do not apologize expecting your friend to apologize equally. When you have done something wrong, take responsibility for your part of it. The end. Do attempt to make a repair. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are relationships. Trust takes time to earn back, it’s a slow process but quitting will not speed it up.
Last but not least, if there are people in your life who avoid apologizing or taking accountability for their actions, I believe there are two things you need to do.
First of all, forgive them. I can forgive someone but that doesn’t mean I accept their behaviour or trust them. I forgive them for me, so I can let go and move on. Stay away from people who can’t take responsibility for their actions and who make you feel bad for holding them accountable when they do something hurtful. Part of relationships means being vulnerable and truthful. The vulnerability that honesty requires is not something that everyone can handle. Lying allows people to be comfortable.
Secondly, create boundaries. Some of you need to do this with family members and friends in your life, not just those who hurt you. Boundaries are not mean, they are created to protect you in relationship and create a place where you and others can be healthy and thrive. What is a boundary? A boundary is a definite place where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins. It stops you from doing things for others that they should do for themselves. A boundary also prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their destructive behaviour that they need to experience in order to grow. It’s only once we can assert ourselves and say “I will not tolerate x,y,z” that we can be whole, healthy and not in bondage to someone else, but instead stand free in a relationship.