First known use of the word accountability was in 1750 with the meaning willingness or obligation to explain one's actions or to admit being the cause of a problem: Synonyms: answerability, blame, fault, liability, responsibility. Since our lives from toddler to older adults revolve around the various mentors of accountability toward parents, teachers, first time jobs, bosses, management, marriage partners, etc. the focus today is how and when we become responsibly-accountable.
To the legal system, the answer is clear: children have the requisite moral sense--the ability to tell right from wrong--by age 7-15--depending on the particular state, being held responsible for their actions.
Eight is generally accepted time for the age of spiritual accountability. Some experience it a year or so earlier. But children become morally responsible for his/her actions much earlier.
Exemplifying accountability is critical for children in achieving balanced development in building character in a world where being responsibly-accountable revolves around every season and decision of life.
When we siblings were 7-15 years of age, Mom taught us accountability by placing a list of chores with our names on the dining room table along with a snack after we got off the bus. (The sixth was a baby). As soon as we could reach and walk around, we were expected to make our bed and pick up our clothes. My chores at age 8 were sweeping one large porch and two smaller ones, several walks, and dusting our 14-room farmhouse on Saturdays. Mac and I were responsible for hunting and gathering the eggs daily.
Mom knew I disliked dusting. And she also knew I didn’t do a very good job. The spiral staircase was a pain to dust. One Saturday--I was probably 10—when I announced that I was finished, she asked “Did you find the quarter?” A quarter was a lot in 1944. I hadn’t taken all the doilies off as she had directed when given the job. From that day on until now, I remove and shake all doilies. Lesson well-learned. Mom also gave me fun chores of rearranging the silver-ware drawer and making coffee cakes. In the summer we were assigned to weed the garden and Mac and I were given the job of carrying a gallon of water a good distance for each tomato plant—probably 10. We picked and shelled, peeled peaches, corded and peeled apples, picked blackberries, seeded grapes, carried canning jars from the cellar and washed cobwebs and dust for mom to finish scalding them. We were accountable for homework. Occasionally Dad would help me, or brother John. If I received a bad grade on my card the entire family shamed me, which being an Intuitive Feeler, taught me personal accountability stemming from a negative standpoint.
When Dad left us, we moved to Mom’s hometown close to her family. Our two sisters had finished high school and were living and working in Columbus. While mom worked full time, we three middle kids were responsible for taking care of our 6-year-old brother as well as providing our own school supplies, shoes and other things we wanted, like bikes, etc.
We all found jobs. I baby sat, cleaned and did laundry for neighbors until I was sixteen when I got a job at A&P grocery. Mac and John found employment. As soon as David learned to ride a bicycle, he got a paper route. Becoming financially responsible wasn’t exactly a choice but we all realize how fortunate we were to learn how to pay our own way. We all agree that cooperating with our mom in surviving the trauma of losing our dad and his income not only taught us how to be personally accountable but created strong bonds as well.
The following accountability story presents a different view with a spiritual outcome:
I have always been an accountable person. And though I straddled many fences with accountability on one side like maintaining employment, paying bills, instilling values, good old family values and those sorts of things that require tacit accountability, the other side often included things like partying too much, nonchalant attention to GOD, squandering opportunities, prideful attitudes, undeserved rudeness, short tempers and arrogance. After a divorce and the children swept away, I was driven to my knees, but it wasn't enough to get off the fence. Burying my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, childhood friends...not enough. Burying my son, nope.
It embarrasses me to see my own folly at trying to be accountable and remaining on that fence of selfish pride. Once I developed an awareness that I could no longer NOT be accountable for EVERYTHING. Only by giving those crappy parts to HIM to thresh-out did I slowly begin to realize I was holding something back from GOD. My idea of accountability has grown to: GOD is responsible for the consequences when we entrust our lives to HIM, but we are responsible for the consequences when we fail to trust God. J.
As I was researching accountability tendencies common to some older teens who yearn to get out from under parental control who search for freedom to do only what they want to do who often discover in the process how lost they are, I hurried to answer the door and, on the way back to my office picked up the morning paper and took time to read Pickles, my favorite comic: After bathing the dog, Earl said, “There, Roscoe, didn’t that bath feel good?” Next frame: Roscoe grabs his collar and takes off to bury it saying to himself ‘goodbye, yoke of my imprisonment’. Next frame, Roscoe thinks, ‘Free at last! No more evil collar around my neck! No more limits! I can go anywhere I want. I’m a free dog!’ Next frame: With a sad face, Roscoe SIGHs, ‘Isn’t someone going to come take me for a walk?’ I couldn’t resist sharing this amusing coincidence
Being responsibly accountable translates to being kind to others, controlling what you say and do which includes: dependability, thoroughness, humility, patience, tenderness, concern, selflessness, helpfulness, cooperation and compassion. Occasionally, we may detect immature accountability on the part of someone we care about and discover that we may be the one who could help that person identify their obstinate behavior and influence a behavioral upgrade. Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 27:6) is applicable. No matter how accountability alternates as we move through the seasons of life, God will give us discernment and wisdom in accepting uncomfortable changes confidently and graciously.
From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:16 (NIV).
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the Soul and healing to the bones. Prov. 16:24 (NIV).
The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God. Micah 6:8(NCV).
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22-23. (NIV).