Being held “accountable” means having to face the consequences of our behavior. It also means the same as the word “responsible,” which is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as: “1) Liable to be called upon to answer for one’s acts or decisions: ANSWERABLE. 2) Able to fulfill one’s obligations: RELIABLE, TRUSTWORTHY. 3) Able to choose for oneself between right and wrong. 4) Involving accountability or important duties.”
A responsible person understands that there are consequences to his or her behavior. A consequence is something that happens as a result of something we do. For example if you are not supposed to be chewing gum, but you get caught chewing it anyway, then you will be one of many students who find out the hard way that you must write an “accountability paper.” Having to write the paper is a direct “consequence” of your behavior. Consequences are important because they help us understand what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. The important thing is that we learn from these consequences and work hard not to repeat the behaviors that got us into trouble in the first place.
A mature person realizes that two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because you know of someone else who has apparently “gotten away” with something or “didn’t get caught” doesn’t mean his or her behavior is permissible. It is human nature to find excuses and reasons why we shouldn’t be “persecuted.” Sometimes we feel “picked on,” when in reality we just don’t want to face up to the consequences of our own actions. We must stop to realize that nobody is perfect and sometimes all bad things are not caught and corrected. This is a fact of life that has always been around and it is not going to go away anytime soon. While it is unfortunate that some get caught and some don’t, there are still consequences to be paid. It is better to get caught the first time and learn from our mistakes, instead of repeating them. There are people in prison right now who thought they would “never get caught,” so they continued in their lifestyle until the consequences finally caught up with them.
In the end, doing something you know you are not supposed to be doing will have consequences in your life either now or later, regardless of whether or not you get caught. Being mature is realizing that there are no excuses for inappropriate behavior — and that if we choose to do something we shouldn’t, we must be prepared to accept the consequences. “Getting away” with something doesn’t make it right, and we should always be on our best behavior for our own sake, not just because someone is “watching” us.
Some of life’s most important rules are things we should have learned in kindergarten. Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. Here are just a few of the things he mentioned that we should remember to think about and do for the rest of our lives.
“Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.”
Think about why you ended up writing this paper and what the consequences are. Think about the consequences of your behavior before you do something that you probably already know you shouldn’t be doing. Don’t blame the person who catches you doing something that you knew you weren’t supposed to be doing. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them! Learn from the mistakes of others — life is too short to make them all yourself. Think about it!