Accountability By Tom Leavens

So I went to Queens Supreme with two books under my arm and a sense of wonder. Within an hour, I was asked to complete a survey form, escorted to a Court Room and immediately called for an interview with the lawyers. Out of the first set of candidates, I was the first and only Juror chosen. All I could think about was a joke I once heard: “The only people selected for Jury Duty are the people too dumb to get out of Jury Duty.” It seemed that my intense listening skills, my profession of objectivity and my striking resemblance to Opie from Mayberry got me chosen. The experience lasted almost three weeks where I met some great people, finished two books and allowed me time to think about things I normally take for granted. But the one thought that has stayed with me since the experience is, “How long are we held accountable for the things we do.” Juries rule on cases everyday that involve placing the blame on someone. What are the cases in our everyday lives where we place blame or responsibility on?

At a very young age, we learn that placing the blame on someone else may save us from punishment. In my house, video games are kept in the basement and can only be used with permission. Quite often, while sitting in the Living Room, Kathy and I will hear the sounds of speeding race cars and springs and crashes, and know that one of our children has turned on the Play station without permission. When asked, Connor and Aidan will point their fingers at each other (sometimes pointing their fingers at their younger siblings), followed by asking permission to finish what was started (being a push-over, I usually give in). They are afraid of both the consequences and how they will look in their parent’s eyes. This situation happens often but with no great punishment – yet it’s important for them to come out blame-free. It’s forgotten about and life goes on. Yet, when it happens again, they defend themselves with the same intensity as before.

Two of my best friends have not been speaking for a few months. Their disagreement is over a very sensitive situation that has left them angry and hurt. As someone looking from the outside, my hope is that they get together, talk through the situation and become friends again. Unfortunately, neither can budge – they don’t know what to say, how to say it, what they expect to get in return for their words. It’s painful for me to see this and not have some control. One friend feels that a trust was broken and can never be repaired. I started to think about the accountability in this. Even if one is truly sorry and apologizes, can the damage be repaired? Does time truly heal everything? How long does the hurt, the mistrust, last? Can one friend really prove themselves to the other again?

I guess that blame and accountability are tied closely to forgiveness. We live in a world where people sue other people to win something that will bring justification for their hurt. We live in a world where fighting and killing through war will bring justification to current and future hurt. We live in a world where disagreements end relationships that have been built with love and respect, justifying distrust and hurt. God teaches us to love one another and to forgive each other. Why can’t it as simple as it should be? If I can believe that God loves me unconditionally, why is it so hard for me to love and forgive others? Is it that I’m afraid of how I would look in the eyes of others, or I can’t bring find the words, or I just need to be right? God does not hold me accountable when I turn away from Him and blame him for the difficult things in my life. What are the obstacles that get in the way of forgiveness? I believe that trusting in myself and trusting in God will bring justification to the good things I try to do in my life. I have to count on that. Can you count of that in your life? Maybe you should try to count on God before you’re called to duty!