Holding people accountable for their actions should be a very simple process. In an ideal world, someone who makes a mistake should admit to their wrongdoing. Then, they should make a genuine effort to not repeat their mistakes. This sort of process should have high levels of scrutiny. In a world where many people are not authentic or genuine about their words or actions, we often build walls around us to ensure that insincere individuals do not enter our spheres of influence. The presence of these walls leads to distrust, suspicion, and other divisive attitudes or behaviors that impede our improvement as human beings. This is something I can personally attest to, namely because of my prior experiences with individuals who were anything but sincere. While I should not base my behavior and my actions off of experiences with a few individuals, I have seen this sort of behavior time and time again. It is time that we all hold ourselves to a much higher standard than ever before.
Being accountable for one’s actions is mere common sense. While people may rant and rave about the ills of social media, it is possibly the most powerful tool to hold people accountable for their actions. For many years, Harvey Weinstein wasn’t held accountable for his actions, and it led to dozens of actresses accusing him of sexual harassment. There were people who were complicit in his actions as well. People were offered money to violate their own moral codes (i.e. holding someone accountable). Those who were complicit in his actions should also be held accountable.
Why is social media such a powerful tool for holding people accountable? I often see people black out the names of people who say and do terrible things. People have often told me that the reason they black out names is because they don’t want the person on the other end to be the victim of bullying and witch hunting. This, in effect, protects people from being accountable for their actions and does nothing to solve the issue that we are facing. This, for me, draws parallels to the Catholic sacrament of Confession. As I’ve said time and time again over the years, the reason that Confession is so flawed is because there is no accountability and no plan of action to ensure that one truly and honestly improves. Penance is often lighter in this day and age, with the offender saying several prayers. In the Middle Ages, there was public confession, which often took place in a town square. This was actually a far more effective solution in ensuring that people were actually held accountable for their actions, and why they got rid of this sort of process is baffling if one values sincerity, accountability, and honesty. In addition, people who go to Confession are actually under pressure that they will not go to Heaven, which makes any confession extremely questionable.
A recent string of events involving members of my team led me to believe, once again, things that I had always believed in the past: that there was no accountability for one’s actions, and apologies were never part of a dialogue, but rather done under pressure, rather than an actual sincere apology that came directly from the person, without any influence from anyone else. The pressure of a third party and the fear of what will happen if they do not apologize are the very reasons we cannot have true, sincere apologies. Apologies are not sincere if they are done under the pressure of another person or if one fears consequences.
For me, apologies require three things: accountability, reparations, and a plan of action to not repeat those offenses. Children apologize all the time under pressure; rarely (if ever) do I see it happen for any other reason. Owning up to one’s mistakes is the first step of accountability. Making reparations to the other party should be done in a gesture of goodwill (once again, not under the pressure of other people or fear of a damaged reputation). Third, and the most important part, is a plan of action that one will undertake to not repeat those actions. We often accept apologies with the assumption that the person will not do it again; but trusting people to be kind and sincere to one another in today’s day and age is a fool’s errand. Therefore, adding this extra step ensures continued accountability for one’s actions. Accountability for one’s actions is not just a one-time deal, it’s something that should be done daily.