What is your greatest strength? Think hard. What about you makes you most effective as a communicator, worker, social being, and parent? For some, the answer is honesty. For others, the ability to listen. Still others will say that their greatest strength is their work ethic. For me, it’s the willingness to accept accountability.
Like most of us, I grew up very unwilling to admit when I was wrong; and as a very opinionated person I always run the risk of shooting my mouth off before thinking things through (I guess you could say that’s my greatest weakness). As I grew into an adult, the reality of what impact my words and opinions can have on others became apparent and important to me. Despite what we were told as children, our opinions can be wrong, and wrong opinions reveal our ignorance of whatever subject they pertain to. When we’re called out on that, we have a decision. Accept fault, or double-down.
A few years ago, I said some very hurtful things on Facebook about home-schooling. Beyond hurtful actually, I basically called it religiously motivated child abuse. Once the comment was out there, there was no taking it back. I lost friends over this, home-schooled friends I had known since childhood; and when they called me out for my ill-informed attack my first instinct was to double-down. I tried to defend my position, saying that when religious beliefs cause you to shield your kids from reality, and teach them something contrary to reality, that’s tantamount to abuse. Although I still believe that shielding kids from reality for fear that their faith will be weakened does them a huge disservice, calling it ‘abuse’ goes way over the line.
Eventually, reluctantly, I had to accept accountability for what I had done. This meant admitting I was wrong as publicly as I had originally said what I said, and reaching out to the offended party in an attempt to make amends. More than that, I had spoken about home-schooling without doing any research into what it is exactly, the many ways that it’s done, and the many reasons parents choose to do it (including secular reasons). This was my first experience in truly accepting accountability, and much to my surprise it felt good. Admitting I had been wrong, and embracing the desire to learn more about it, felt really good! All of a sudden, standing by my opinions as if they were convictions was no longer important to me. The pretense of pride disappeared, and I embraced a willingness to accept fault (provided I was guilty of it of course).
Now, being a Dad is a huge part of my identity. My biggest strength as a person is also my biggest strength as a parent. I am ill-informed on a great many things, and that’s why I’m always seeking knowledge. I love to learn, and I’m willing to accept accountability when I’m wrong. This helps me be the most effective communicator, worker, social being, and parent I can possibly be. Accepting accountability keeps me honest, it requires that I listen, and my desire to better myself demands work ethic. Most of the strengths people claim they have are either needed for or demanded by the willingness to accept accountability.
None of us are perfect, that’s easy enough to say. What matters is that we apply it to ourselves and live it. If you’re right, stand firm when opposition comes; but when somebody presents a better argument and shows that you’re wrong, admit it. Our children learn by watching us. Be someone you want to see them emulate.