Thursday, November 08, 2012

Choice and Accountability

I'm thinking a lot about accountability today, and have been for a while. All politics aside, we seem, as a nation, to be moving towards a belief that we should not be held accountable for our choices and actions. It starts with a sense of entitlement and grows into demands for non-accountability. 
I've been wondering where it begins - this idea that we shouldn't have to be responsible for the consequences of our own actions. I almost have convinced myself (with no studies or reports to back me up) that it begins all the way back in the sandbox with parents who blame other children for making their baby cry. And it continues on with the parents who blame the teacher or the school for their child's bad grades, instead of blaming the child and working with the child to improve his/her grades. 
I worry about the anti-bullying movement. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely against bullying. We need to combat it! But I worry how much of it is really bullying versus kids who aren't accepting the consequences of their own actions. Are we allowing kids to cry "Bully!" and blame other people, instead of teaching them to be accountable for their own choices and emotions? Shouldn't we ALSO be teaching them accountability for their choices and actions, instead of just pointing at the rest of the world and crying that no one loves us for who we are?
Growing up Mormon in a non-Mormon world meant getting teased, misunderstood, and mocked for my choices. I didn't cuss, drink, smoke, and I was the last one to understand all sexual references. Believe me when I say there was plenty of mean spirited teasing for my "choices." But until I had been teased or bullied for them, they weren't choices, they just a part of who I am/was. 
In fact most "choices" aren't really choices, but are just a part of what makes us inherently who we are, until the moment we have to answer someone else' demands or questions. For instance, responding to a bully, or standing up for what we believe in when taunted or teased. 
But we never hear of movements to empower individuals to stand up for themselves. Instead, there are more and more organizations empowering people to point a finger and blame others. There is a huge difference between empowering accountability and empowering demands. 
I feel this is all a result of storytelling and Hollywood. A good story requires a relate-able main character who faces a problem, and must make a decision in the face of conflict. The difference between fables and parables, is that in a fable the decision results in an exciting new adventure (brave new world) after the conflict is over. In a parable life resumes its regular course after the conflict. In movie-making and storytelling it is far easier to resolve a storyline with an exciting future, than it is to resume previous life and expect to appease the audience. 
Between the influence of storytelling making us believe that all conflicts should result in us getting our "brave new world," parents teaching entitlement, and this movement of pointing fingers and making demands, where are the lessons in accountability? 

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  1. Anonymous10:04 AM

    This is so accurate. So many times as a mormon growing up, I didn't have choice. Kids would give the testimony and their parents told them what to say. At eight, it was expected that you get baptized, but I didn't really believe. I just trusted the adults who told me I would someday have a testimony.
    As an adult, I evenutally deconstructed and examined what I had been taught. I made the choice to investigate origins of Christianity. I tried understanding why evangelicals didn't believe Mormons were Christians. I investigated history that wasn't just the one-sided whitewashed Mormon rhetoric. Now I am actually accountable for my life. I no longer live with faith and for me it works. For me, it is more empowering to believe that I have some control and not some God. I realize that some people love faith and religion. But being accountable means choosing what to believe.

  2. What I find so ironic is how many times Pres. Obama has talked about personal responsibility in his speeches..both as a candidate in 2008 and in the last 4 years.


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