During the Softball Season we usually have to deal with rain-outs and makeup games. The team was assembled one evening and warming up on the field when I received a call. The team we were playing asked if we were arriving soon. I knew then that something had gone wrong. Each of us believed this game to be a home game. Now what? I called our director to discuss the situation. Apparently the director of the other team had forgotten to relay the information that this was to be played in our town. I lobbied for a forfeit and win for us, but the response I received was “accidents happen”.
Accidents do happen. My son came barreling through the house the other day and knocked something off the shelf and it broke causing my wife to be upset. He shrugged and said “accident”. While true, there is some responsibility to be born. I drove too fast around a curve and ended up in the ditch. It was an “accident”. However, someone had to pay for the damages!
Accidents happen every day, but someone must take the responsibility. I told the director and also my son what I was told when my Dad arrived. Accidents happen but so do consequences. I was being taught that taking responsibility for the results of my actions was important. It is and God thinks so also.
The Israelites found themselves wandering around in the desert when this happened…
While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the lord’s anger to blaze against his people. The lord issued the following command to Moses: “Seize all the ringleaders and execute them before the lord in broad daylight, so his fierce anger will turn away from the people of Israel.” So Moses ordered Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death the men under your authority who have joined in worshiping Baal of Peor.”
God put Moses in charge. Moses put tribal leaders in charge. God told Moses the consequence and Moses relayed it to the tribal leaders. While neither Moses nor the Leaders were involved in the exploits, they had to take responsibility of those in their charge.
Every organization has a downward flow of responsibility and upward flow of accountability. Those for whom I am responsible are also accountable back to me. Here a few keys to taking responsibility.
1. You’re not guilty unless you are involved in the alleged actions. For example, if there is a department that behaves badly or misses deadlines, the boss will hold the supervisor responsible while the supervisor holds the people responsible. Why? Because of the downward responsibility and upward accountability. Too often I find that top of the chain leaders take full responsibility instead of holding accountable those actually in charge of particular areas.
2. Don’t micromanage. In church, the pastor is the one who holds the greatest accountability to God. Meanwhile, he can also hold a staff person responsible for that which is under his/her purview. That staff person, acting responsibly, will go the next in line for answers to the issue. While it may seem easier for the pastor/leader/boss to go straight to the person who acted badly, it harms the system and undermines the authority of those in the chain of responsibility. Moses did not go the people. Moses went to the tribal leaders.
3. Consequences are a part of life. From Adam, Eve, and the Serpent we are fully aware that there are consequences to our actions. Failing to administer them or minimizing them is not healthy for the larger group. There are good and bad consequences. Let us make sure we provide both to balance the environment. If negative consequences are the only ones provided then those who seek attention begin to act poorly. An old adage of education is reward what you want to see.
Leading a large body of people, no matter the industry, requires that there be a balance of responsibility being accepted and accountability being demanded.