Being accountable to our Family, Colleagues & Brothers is the humility our world needs today
Some time back, Pope Francis commented that everyone must be accountable to someone. Is lack of accountability the main reason for so much discontent in our lives & Communities?
In Religious life it’s not uncommon for some Brothers and priests to come and go from their Community without advising properly where they are going/ returning; even being absent from Community activities without advising or making a small apology when they return.
Perhaps that is the same in some families? Especially among older children staying at home as they go through teenage years and after leaving school. It causes stress and worry that is not necessary. And, at the root of it, is the desire to not be accountable: a false sense of freedom.
And so – dare I say all of us at times – want to hide behind the idea of freedom, in order to do things that we should probably not be doing or, at least, not doing it at that time. In other words, we sometimes hide the Holy Spirit’s gift of “prudence”, or fail to fulfil our responsibilities in a way that supports the family/ Community.
Choosing to fulfil our responsibilities at a time that suits us can let the family down badly. eg. Dad’s job is to prepare breakfast, but he decides to start at 8am; meanwhile mum has to leave at 7:30am and the children by 8am.
If husbands and wives fail to communicate when and where they are going, it creates fear and frustration. When children don’t know where mum/dad are it creates anxiety. When parents don’t know where the children are it causes stress and worry. The goal of all this accountability is the building of trust and security:
when there is trust and security, then follows privileges and happiness.
Life is full of rewards and rights, but how often do we forget our responsibilities?
Do we demand our rights before we fulfil our duties/ commitments?
eg. Do we only ring home when we need something? Is that a true relationship?
To communicate is the basic level of humility needed for positive relationships. Listening is also very important and, more importantly, it opens us up to a greater wisdom.
I once heard a young Religious say: I know my duty as a Religious, why should I have to tell where I’m going? When we are open and transparent, we also open ourselves up to new information and better ways to achieve what we set out to do. eg. “do you know Fr X is going that way, ask him for a lift to save time.”
The other key gift we receive, when we have the humility to be accountable, is protection. When we advise our movements to an older person, we have the possibility to receive some wisdom about the task, journey or location. For example, when a husband is travelling, and stays somewhere, there are always temptations. So, by staying in the right location(s) and associating with the right people, we can reduce those temptations.
When we lack the humility to communicate with our Community or family members, it can lead to problems in the workplace, and our relationship with God.
Do we only communicate when we need something, or are afraid of some situation?
It doesn’t matter how powerful we are, we all need something in our lives to keep us humble and accountable, or we will destroy ourselves and others around us.
In the world of finance we try to have internal controls to reduce errors and temptations. This is also an example of financial humility. Are our religious petty cash accounts accessible by others? Do husband and wife share the same bank account and are transparent in spending?
It’s really an act of humility to allow ourselves to be “limited”, and our actions to be seen by others. However, it’s the main way to protecting our future lives and the well-being of our families and wider community.
Why? Because we are all open to natural inclinations (eg. sexual desires), or having a bad day and stop thinking of tomorrow. Our internal controls help prevent moments of “being stupid”.
Humility does not deny or limit our happiness: it really enhances our peace and joy if it translates into accountability to others in our Community or family.
CS Lewis said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Meaning: there is more time for us to think of others, which improves our relationships.
Finally, being accountable is an act of generosity, and God always rewards generosity. Parents/ children, Religious/ their people, employers/ employees. Humility helps us to be accountable and transparent. Try it to prove me wrong.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI