I am intrigued by Seth Godin’s distinction between accountability and responsibility. He says:
Accountability is done to you. It’s done by the industrial system, by those that want to create blame.
Responsibility is done by you. It’s voluntary. You can take as much of it as you want.
Now. To be clear. It is important to hold people accountable. I know that it has been important for me to be held accountable. Accountability is important for the individuals that have been harmed. It is a way for a person or a group to say: that behavior is not welcomed here.
Accountability is healthy and important.
But too often these days we are using the word “accountability” to excuse a mob mentality. We are using it to cancel and erase. Not to restore and transform. When we focus our energy on blame we are actually making ourselves powerless.
When we are in community together. We are responsible for each other. And this includes being responsible for those who have done wrong. As long as we labor under the illusion that we can get rid of those who make mistakes. We will all walk around self-righteous and afraid. We will all have to deal with the fear of exile, the hidden feeling that we do not belong.
Responsibility is an empowered posture. Radical responsibility is the key to liberation. Responsibility means holding yourself accountable. It means owning your stuff when someone makes you aware of it. It also means that you are responsible for those you are in community with. And for the restoration of those who have done wrong.
Accountability is an integral part of keeping people safe.
Taking responsibility is an essential part of actually getting free.