The Unity movement has a big mission: advancing the movement of spiritual awakening and transformation. We are about awakening human consciousness, about transformation on a deep level, about creating the possibility of a harmonious way of being on the planet. To achieve this, I believe we need to intentionally cultivate a culture of accountability. We need to hold ourselves and one another accountable to high standards.
Creating such a culture isn’t easy. It requires self-awareness, authenticity, and vulnerability. Indeed it is much easier to blame others for what isn’t going well, to hide uncomfortable truths, and to let things slide. Such practices undermine our best intentions, limit growth, and foster mediocrity. By contrast, cultures of accountability are exciting and growth-enhancing; they keep people on their growing edge and bring out the best in people and their organizations.
Accountability must begin with ourselves. In the book, Culture Without Accountability, Julie Miller and Brian Bedford define accountability as “a personal willingness, after the fact, to answer for the results of your behaviors and actions.” We live in an interrelated web of connectivity; our actions and reactions affect others and impacts the experience we create with one another. Accountability means that we are willing to look at what has occurred, and to take responsibility for the ways in which we have hurt or negatively impacted others.
By taking accountability for our own behavior, we gain the respect and credibility to hold others accountable.
Sometimes accountability is approached with an air of superiority and judgment; people are scolded for what they didn’t do well, informed about what’s wrong with them, or told what needs to be done to fix them. Most of us don’t find this approach very comfortable, affirming, or helpful, and understandably resist such conversations. Consequently, such practices undermine our efforts to create a culture of accountability.
I have found that such practices frequently arise because we have lost awareness of our underlying values, principles and deepest intentions. Losing this, we operate on a surface level attempting to enforce rules and control behavior. But if we dive down beneath the surface, we have the opportunity to engage in conscious conversations that invite us all to higher functioning.
Consider, for example, the following scenarios:
- You have noticed that a colleague has a tendency to be reactive and defensive. You decide it’s not your business and just ignore the situation. Or, you make a judgment about this person, call him up and tell him he has an anger issue and needs to get psychological help. Or, you call him up and say something like: “I know that ministry is important to you, and that you desire to be loving and compassionate. Sometimes I find you react to situations and blame other people for what is not going well. I would like to support you in finding other ways to deal with these situations.”
- A member of your congregation has asked for a recommendation for a ministerial path. You have noticed that she has a tendency to be self-absorbed and have some concerns about her ability to be emotionally present for people. However, you like her and don’t want to hurt her feelings, and give her a recommendation anyway. Or, you make an appointment with the individual, acknowledge her commitment to Unity and desire to serve, then share honestly your concerns and hesitation to give her a recommendation.
A value-based conversation usually takes more thought and preparation; it also deepens relationship, fosters trust and has a more constructive impact on behavior.
Our Unity principles have the power to change consciousness and to spiritually awaken and transform the world. Let’s cultivate a culture of accountability so that we can all grow into this together.