“There is nothing weak about being accountable; in fact, it is one of the most courageous things you can do.” ~Lisa Merlo-Booth
Damn, you know that feeling that comes over you when you realize you just screwed up? You may have just snapped at your partner, was mean to a friend, or said some sarcastic dig that hurt someone’s feelings, and you hope like hell that they didn’t catch it or notice. However, they notice. Not only do they see, but they’re right on it telling you how your actions weren’t okay or that you hurt their feelings.
And now, the moment of truth is upon you: Do you take responsibility for your actions and genuinely make amends for their impact? Or, do you defend, deny, or explain your actions away?
If, like many people, you take the easy way out and defend to the hilt.
- “I didn’t snap at you; you’re just sensitive!”
- “I was joking. Oh my gosh, why do you take everything so seriously?”
- “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What comment was mean?”
Yep—this is the easy way out, and if I’m being brutally honest with you (hint: take a breath and hold yourself in warm regard), it is the cowardly way out). It takes zero emotional courage to defend, deny, or attack others in response to them attempting to hold you accountable for your actions. Yep—those moves are weak and speak to emotional fragility, not strength. And, yes, we ALL have made these moves. Sadly, I’ve personally done these moves myself far more times than I care to admit. Defending is so much easier than acknowledging. Defending is self-protective. In those moments you choose to defend, you do so because you’re more concerned about protecting yourself than you are about honoring and protecting the relationship or the person you hurt. You don’t want to be seen as a mean person or not a good guy or as incompetent or (fill in the blank); and so, you protect—you. Even though you harmed “them,” you protect you—a much easier path than being vulnerable, accountable, imperfect, and responsible.
Ironically, people believe that not taking responsibility for their behavior is “tough,” when it takes zero courage to defend your actions and absolute courage to own them. We all know this in our bones. You know this in your bones. Think of all the times someone attempted to talk to you about a mistake you made or hold you accountable for your actions. Was it easier to defend or to be responsible? For anyone who has taken full responsibility for their mistakes and made amends when warranted, they know it is not easy. Being accountable for your actions is courageous and making amends is beyond brave. There is nothing weak about owning your actions; in fact, it is one of the bravest things you can do. Courageous accountability is also one of the most relationally healing moves you can do.
Challenge: Be courageous. You will make countless mistakes in your lifetime—learn to acknowledge, repair, and learn from them. Defensiveness is easy; being accountable is courageous. Don’t confuse strength with fragility. Deflecting, attacking, denying, and dismissing are about fragility. Owning, acknowledging, being accountable, and repairing, is true strength.