“Accountability breeds response-ability.”
- Stephen R. Covey
A couple of days ago I was thinking about our ability to take accountability in our lives. I remember an excercise I did in a group where we were paired up with a partner. It was a counseling type setting. The counselor, who was much like a "Dr. Phil" type, asked us a series of questions about our lives, our past, our choices, our experiences. We, sitting knee to knee with our partner, would then answer the questions with whatever came to mind.
One question in particular gave me trouble. I think I have come to understand it a little bit over the years, but parts of it left me bothered a bit.
The girl I was partners with, in response to one particular question, for the first time opened up to tell me about the most traumatic experience of her life. Let me tell you....traumatizing is an understatement! I can't imagine living through what she did for YEARS! My heart ached for her.
Then the unthinkable was asked.....
"Now, for the next three minutes", he said SURELY not knowing what she had just told me, I thought, "I want you to tell why YOU are ACCOUNTABLE for that event in your life."
She broke down. I broke down. She had spent years of her life telling herself, convincing herself that this was not her fault. It felt like he was trying to say that it WAS indeed her fault. How could she have stopped it? How did she let it happen? Is that what he meant?! We didn't do the excercise. If we had, this lesson would have been learned MUCH sooner!
In this life we pass through trials and/or events that can alter our lives in a way. Some of these trials, the ones I want to focus on, are not brought on by our actions. They are from the actions of others and can leave a long lasting mark on us. For example: Unkind words, divorce, abuse, infidelity, loved ones addictions, etc. These are the extremes. Look at your own life. Is there an action that someone else took that hurt or offended you? Do you carry a grudge? How does that effect you?
Ok, here is where accountability for those actions comes in. Now, this is where this blog turns WAY personal and a bit deep. However, my personality is to be very open. Sometimes too much, perhaps! :) But, there are times when I feel like I should share and I do. There are times when I feel like I shouldn't so I don't. This just happens to be a time to share.....
With much love and respect to my parents, I want to tell you what "BELIEFS" I formed about myself when I was younger. My parents were divorced when I was 4-5 years old. I can't imagine how hard it was for my Mom to be a single mother of three at 23! I can't imagine how hard it was for my Dad to watch his kids call my Mom's new husband, years later, Dad. Individually I am sure there were some very difficult moments. They did their best for what they knew at the time. I didn't get to see my Dad as often as I would have liked. I am certain now that I would have been unsatisfied with anything less than him and my mom back together. It was our entire world and security that seemed to fail for a few years. It was hard. Through the years following I think I went through what a lot of kids go through from time to time with divorce. Although I know that my Dad loved me now, in my young mind I wondered how he could love us and not stay with us. Ah, the black and white of childhood! :)
Within a few years my Mom re-married. Oh, how I love him! I do have to say that it was not all peaches and cream! I was a turkey and my Dad (Step Dad) was ornery. I was constantly trying to show my loyalty to my Dad by butting heads with my Step-Dad. We had quite a few arguments as I grew up. We struggled. It wasn't until he and I were going through our EMT school together that we really found our niche with each other. He is a good man....and he survived me! That's saying something! :) Ha!
Each experience, confrontation and heartbreak built upon each other into one lump sum of self hate. Really, this started when I was about 9 years old and probably lasted in varying degrees until a few years ago. I was drowning in my own grief.
But here is what I have learned. The other night in a moment this simple phrase came to my mind, it is in quotes because it was spoken clearly, taught perfectly, "When suffering comes at the hands of others, we have accountability, NOT for THEIR actions, but for what we will make of the suffering."
Isn't that just it?! What will we make of the suffering?! Will we plant it deep within ourselves and allow it to limit us for the rest of our lives? OR will we take that experience, place the suffering upon the INFINITE Power of the Atonement...upon our Saviors willing and loving hands, and then walk through the fire knowing, as Viktor Frankyl puts it, "What is to give light must endure burning"? Don't you LOVE that?! I so LOVE that! The experience brings the "burning" or the "refiners fire", where we are perfectly molded into who we must be, IF....IF....we will put all of our trust in the Lord, and give our suffering to He who KNOWS the burden and paid the price. THEN, when we have gone to the point that had the power to break us, and we perservered, the Lord will show Himself to us. We will KNOW Him and our hearts will be sealed to Him. Then we stand in a place where we can give LIGHT to those that need help to find the way! AND share light, simply by being a better friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother....a better YOU!
If you don't know who Viktor Frankl is, RUN to the nearest library or book store and get "Man's Search For Meaning". This book is LIFE CHANGING! Viktor is a survivor of the Holocaust. Not only did he survive, but through his unimaginable suffering he FOUND faith and the Lord. Really, a situation where someone has the opportunity to become bitter and wonder why on earth would this have to happen, and instead he FOUND the Lord! I LOVE that!
I read this book just before having the Twins. Through the last 4 years I have had this quote running through my head....
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember those who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances - to choose one's own way."
Read it again!
Now read this.....
"Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it."
After Dawson's funeral Ryan and I sat in the truck, just before going in to the luncheon. Oh, if you could have felt what we felt! There was peace, healing, LOVE beyond anything I have ever experienced and will do anything needed to feel again. In that moment I was reminded of WHO I was. I am my Fathers Daughter. I am His! When the fullness of this realization sets in it changes the very chemistry of who we are. There is confidence and peace beyond description. How could we not be confident if we TRULY know who we are?!
Then, in that moment, came GRATITUDE! I understood completely that every single experience in my life, EVERY LAST ONE, was for experience to make me strong enough to be everything my little boy needed me to be, and everything I need to be for my family and for my mission and purpose here. Gratitude feels like an understatement!
Along the way, while growing up I made choices I might not have otherwise made. I not only jumped the line, I ran as far in the wrong direction as I could. I had to be accountable for those choices. Because as soon as accountability is realized, healing and forgiveness can take place! But not until it is realized! THAT is why it is so very important! If we can be accountable for our actions or reactions THEN we can make overcoming them part of the strength we are given to help us in our lives!
So, we have a choice. Always. No matter the situation. We get to choose if we suffer for the rest of our lives for things that happen when we were younger or even simply something hurtful said by someone last week, thereby robbing us of vital relationships or experiences, OR we can CHOOSE to be happy!
Really, if I layed out a bunch of sad, miserable, horrible feelings in one hand and a WHOLE SLEW of happiness in the other....I'm not really thinking it's gonna be a surprise which one you would like to pick! SO JUST PICK IT! Happiness is a CHOICE!
This is such a long post, but I just really felt all of this come up and wanted to put it here, for whatever reason. Maybe because this blog is all about the journey of developing and then living as our best selves and Accountability just happens to play one of the most important roles in making that happen, so I have learned throughout this post and the last few weeks! :) I will leave you with just 2 more quotes to ponder for a while. Then, while we are getting all accountable, we will be prepared for Carol to sweep in and teach us all about fitness and loving us enough to make ourselves healthy and full of energy!
"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves"
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”
- Stephen R. Covey