Please note that even if you are not a Christian, the 3 R’s of Accountability are a necessary tool in healing dysfunctional families and other relationships.
This is a good website for resources about healthy relationships from a Christian perspective. The excellent article below is on the same website, and is very helpful for those who want or need a fresh perspective about forgiveness. –JoyfulAliveWoman
The 3 R’s Of Accountability — Repentance, Restitution, and Personal Responsibility
Copyright 2003-2009. Luke173Ministries.org
By Rev. Renee Pittelli
Being accountable for one’s behavior is part of growing up and being a mature adult. It is a fallacy that God is all forgiving, and when unrepentant offenders claim that “God forgives me,” they are wrong. God does not forgive us until and unless we confess our sins and repent (change our ways). The Lord holds us accountable for our behavior, and he instructs us to hold each other accountable as well.
Accountability consists of three parts: Repentance, Restitution, and Personal Responsibility.
Repentance: Remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; making a change for the better as a result of remorse; a turning from one’s sinful ways; feeling of such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it, atonement; forsaking of sin; the feeling or act in which one tries to right a wrong, it always includes the admission of guilt, and also at least one of: a solemn promise or resolve not to repeat the offense, or an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.
When we rebuke, set limits on, or break off our relationship with an unrepentant offender, she may shrug and tell us, “I know God forgives me”, the implication being that the Lord forgives her even if we don’t. But guess what? She is WRONG. The Lord NEVER forgives unrepentant evildoers. He REQUIRES that sinners humble themselves and come to him for forgiveness, and that they show remorse and change their ways. The Old Testament is full of examples of the Lord’s wrath and punishment towards the Israelites every time they sinned against him and worshipped false idols, which they did literally dozens of times. Many times God lost his patience with them and they suffered the well-deserved consequences. He only forgave them when they asked for forgiveness (apologized), destroyed their false idols and returned to worshipping him. In other words, when they STOPPED doing what offended him. The Lord does NOT forgive those who choose to continue sinning against him, and he does not expect us to forgive those who continue sinning against us (Luke 17:3). In fact, he tells us to have nothing further to do with them (Titus 3:10-11, Matthew 18: 15-17, 2 Timothy 3: 2-5). It is absurd to think that God requires more of us than he himself is willing to do.
A mature adult is willing to be accountable for any distress or pain he has caused other people. A sincere apology, genuine remorse, and a determination to STOP doing whatever is hurtful to others is known as repentance. Repentance is “turning one’s life around” and “turning from one’s sinful ways”. It is not a mere apology. Repentance is a constructive action. It is CHANGE.
Restitution: (n) the act of making amends; the act of returning or restoring to someone what is his; restoration of a thing to its proper owner or its original state; reparation for injury or damage; a balancing of the accounts; compensation for loss, damage or injury; the act of returning or restoring to a person some thing or right of which he has been unjustly deprived, restitution is made by restoring a specific thing taken away or lost; the act of making good, or of giving an equivalent for any loss, damage, or injury; indemnification.
Restitution is an unfamiliar and often uncomfortable concept to many of us. It comes as quite a surprise to offenders to be told that they are expected to undo the damage that they did. It often comes as a surprise even to the victims, who for some reason don’t really believe they have the right to expect someone who did them wrong to fix what he did.
An important part of being accountable is making amends. Making amends includes “making it up to” the one who was hurt. It means undoing as much of the damage that you did as possible. It means making every effort to make the victim whole again, just like she was, mentally, physically, and emotionally, before the offender did whatever he did to her. It might include making her whole financially – the offender paying back anything he borrowed, stole, or scammed the victim out of. It might include restoring the victim’s reputation if he gossiped or lied about her, which would mean swallowing his pride, personally going to each person he gossiped or lied to, and setting the record straight. The idea is that the victim should not have to suffer the consequences of the abuser’s actions. The abuser needs to be willing to suffer the consequences of his own actions in order to make it right for the victim.
Some damage is so big it seems irreversible, and indeed it might be. But there is always some restitution that the offender can offer. If an offender has verbally, psychologically, emotionally, physically, or sexually abused a victim, she may have been so damaged by him that a way of making her whole does not easily present itself. There doesn’t seem to be much an abuser could do to make it up to her. In such a case, restitution may consist of something like paying for the victim’s counseling or therapy. The abuser can and should express a willingness to do whatever it takes to help the victim heal and recover. This would include offering to do anything the victim’s therapist might suggest. The abuser might be asked to go to anger management, enroll in an Abuser Program, get therapy himself, attend counseling sessions with the victim, or allow the victim to express her anger and pain while not becoming defensive or angry in return.
In the Bible, the Lord instructs us to make restitution to those we have wronged. The Biblical model for restitution is returning what we have taken from another, and ADDING to it as well. In Leviticus 6:1-7, we are taught,: THE LORD SAID TO MOSES: “IF ANYONE SINS AND IS UNFAITHFUL TO THE LORD BY DECEIVING HIS NEIGHBOR ABOUT SOMETHING ENTRUSTED TO HIM OR LEFT IN HIS CARE OR STOLEN, OR IF HE CHEATS HIM, OR IF HE FINDS LOST PROPERTY AND LIES ABOUT IT, OR IF HE SWEARS FALSELY, OR IF HE COMMITS ANY SUCH SIN THAT PEOPLE MAY DO- WHEN HE THUS SINS AND BECOMES GUILTY, HE MUST RETURN WHAT HE HAS STOLEN OR TAKEN BY EXTORTION, OR WHAT WAS ENTRUSTED TO HIM, OR THE LOST PROPERTY HE FOUND, OR WHATEVER IT WAS HE SWORE FALSELY ABOUT. HE MUST MAKE RESTITUTION IN FULL, ADD A FIFTH OF THE VALUE TO IT, AND GIVE IT ALL TO THE OWNER ON THE DAY HE PRESENTS HIS GUILT OFFERING. AND AS A PENALTY, HE MUST BRING TO THE PRIEST, THAT IS, TO THE LORD, HIS GUILT OFFERING… AND HE WILL BE FORGIVEN FOR ANY OF THESE THINGS THAT MADE HIM GUILTY.” Notice also that this passage specifies restitution not just for theft of material goods, but for offenses such as DECEPTION, SWEARING FALSELY and ANY OTHER SUCH SINS.
This passage illustrates yet another very important point. It is all too common for an offender to claim that she has confessed her wrongdoing and repented TO GOD; therefore, no further action is required on her part (especially when it comes to repenting to and making it up to the VICTIM). But the Bible makes a distinction between repenting to God, and repenting to the victim. BOTH are requirements for forgiveness, not just one. If one repents to God of one’s sin against God, then God will forgive her. But if an offender desires forgiveness for offenses against another person, then she must make amends to her victim IN ADDITION to repenting to God. An offender who does not repent of her hurtful behavior TO THE VICTIM is NOT entitled to forgiveness.
In Numbers 5:5-8, the Lord again makes it crystal clear that restitution, INCLUDING INTEREST, must be made TO THE VICTIM. Only if the victim or his relatives cannot be found, will restitution to the Lord alone, be acceptable. THE LORD SAID TO MOSES, “SAY TO THE ISRAELITES: ‘WHEN A MAN OR WOMAN WRONGS ANOTHER IN ANY WAY AND SO IS UNFAITHFUL TO THE LORD, THAT PERSON IS GUILTY AND MUST CONFESS THE SIN HE HAS COMMITTED. HE MUST MAKE FULL RESTITUTION FOR HIS WRONG, ADD ONE FIFTH TO IT AND GIVE IT ALL TO THE PERSON HE HAS WRONGED. BUT IF THAT PERSON HAS NO CLOSE RELATIVE TO WHOM RESTITUTION CAN BE MADE FOR THE WRONG, THE RESTITUTION BELONGS TO THE LORD AND MUST BE GIVEN TO THE PRIEST, ALONG WITH THE RAM WITH WHICH ATONEMENT IS MADE FOR HIM… Numbers 5: 5-8. Again, notice that restitution is expected for ANY wrong done to another.
IF A MAN STEALS AN OX OR A SHEEP AND SLAUGHTERS IT OR SELLS IT, HE MUST PAY BACK FIVE HEAD OF CATTLE FOR THE OX AND FOUR SHEEP FOR THE SHEEP. Exodus 22:1
A THIEF MUST CERTAINLY MAKE RESTITUTION, BUT IF HE HAS NOTHING, HE MUST BE SOLD TO PAY FOR HIS THEFT. IF THE STOLEN ANIMAL IS FOUND ALIVE IN HIS POSSESSION- WHETHER OX OR DONKEY OR SHEEP- HE MUST PAY BACK DOUBLE. IF A MAN GRAZES HIS LIVESTOCK IN A FIELD OR VINEYARD AND THEY STRAY AND THEY GRAZE IN ANOTHER MAN’S FIELD, HE MUST MAKE RESTITUTION FROM THE BEST OF HIS OWN FIELD OR VINEYARD. IF A FIRE BREAKS OUT AND SPREADS INTO THORNBUSHES SO THAT IT BURNS SHOCKS OF GRAIN,… THE ONE WHO STARTED THE FIRE MUST MAKE RESTITUTION. IF A MAN GIVES HIS NEIGHBOR SILVER OR GOODS FOR SAFEKEEPING AND THEY ARE STOLEN FROM THE NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE, THE THIEF, IF HE IS CAUGHT, MUST PAY BACK DOUBLE. Exodus 22:3- 7
……..BOTH PARTIES ARE TO BRING THEIR CASES BEFORE THE JUDGES. THE ONE WHOM THE JUDGES DECLARE GUILTY MUST PAY BACK DOUBLE TO HIS NEIGHBOR… Exodus 22:9
YET IF HE IS CAUGHT, HE MUST PAY SEVENFOLD, THOUGH IT COSTS HIM ALL THE WEALTH OF HIS HOUSE. Proverbs 6:31
Many offenders simply have no understanding of, or just don’t care about, the pain their behavior causes for others. Often the only way they can even begin to understand or to empathize with their victim is to take some of the pain caused by their own actions back onto their own shoulders, and off the shoulders of their victim. Although it may not be easy and can be quite uncomfortable, an accountable adult will pay the price for what he did, instead of making someone else pay the price. It is only right that an offender suffer the consequences of his own actions rather than someone else having to suffer the consequences of his actions. Internalizing the idea that our actions do indeed have consequences may help an abuser to think twice before he hurts someone again. Having to undo the damage you’ve done is difficult, embarrassing, and humbling. Learning to think first before you open your mouth or do something selfish or hurtful is a lesson well-learned, and making restitution for the things you do is a great teacher.
God REQUIRES that restitution be made to victims by those who have victimized them. In specifying that an offender must ADD EXTRA (one-fifth, double, sevenfold, etc.) to what they have taken, he REQUIRES those who have harmed others TO GO ABOVE AND BEYOND in repairing the damage they have done. Once again, we see that a mere apology in not sufficient. Making restitution is an important part of God’s formula for restoration of relationships. We need to expect those who have done us harm to undo the damage they have done, because that is what the Lord expects of them. If it is impossible to undo all the damage, then we need to require them to undo as much as possible. God’s justice is a perfect justice. He requires restitution, and so should we.
Responsible: (adj) legally or morally obliged to take care of something; having to account for one’s actions; liable; capable of rational conduct; trustworthy; being the cause of something; accountable to somebody for something; reliable; being to blame for something; rational and accountable for your actions.
Personal responsibility means taking responsibility for yourself and your life. It includes such things as holding down a job, paying your own way, taking care of and protecting your children, keeping promises and commitments, finishing what you’ve started, and being accountable for what you do and say. This is a character trait that normal, functioning adults develop as they mature. Of course, some mature much later than others, and some never mature at all.
Being responsible is what allows others to be able to trust you. When you are responsible, you are usually also trustworthy. People know you will do the right thing. Responsible people are typically considered to be people of integrity and honor as well.
Accountable adults understand that they are responsible for their choices. They are responsible for the RESULTS of their decisions. They realize that if their words or actions cause something to happen, they are responsible for what happened. And if they do harm ,they are responsible for undoing it.
Many offenders are fond of saying, “But I didn’t mean it that way” or “I never meant for that to happen.” BUT INTENT IS NOT THE ISSUE. RESULTS ARE.
Let’s say you accidentally dropped hot coffee in your lap while driving, got distracted, ran a stop sign, and hit another car. You didn’t mean to do it, but you did it anyway. There’s no need to be defensive or view this as a personal attack- it’s just a statement of fact. The accident is YOUR FAULT, even though it was unintentional. That’s the truth, plain and simple. You’re the one who ran the stop sign, regardless of the reason you had for doing it. It’s certainly not the other driver’s fault, because he had the right of way. So who should pay for the damage you did to his car? Who should take responsibility? Who should be accountable? Certainly not the other guy, the innocent victim!
If you accidentally cause something to happen, you still caused it. If you unintentionally cause something to happen, you still caused it. If you inadvertently or carelessly cause something to happen, you still caused it! The damage is done, and the end result is the same, whether you meant it or not. And you still need to acknowledge that and take responsibility. And if it wasn’t an “accident” and you deliberately or selfishly caused pain for another – well, shame on you. Then you’re even more responsible for fixing what you did and making things right.
Everybody makes mistakes. Where most of us begin to lose our patience is with those who never LEARN from their “mistakes”- this tells us that these are not really “mistakes” at all, but rather ongoing patterns of behavior. If something is truly accidental or inadvertent, an accountable adult has no problem sincerely apologizing, doing whatever he can to fix the situation, and moving on. Mature adults do not have a problem apologizing for errors in judgment, or innocent mistakes that caused harm to others. There is no guilt or shame attached to a truly unintentional offense.
Those who feel guilty and ashamed avoid taking responsibility. One who did wrong deliberately, selfishly, or with malicious intent will be ashamed when she is caught or confronted, so she will not admit what she did. She will try to hide it, make excuses, or in some way weasel out of being accountable for her own behavior. She will be angry and flustered at being caught when she thought she was getting away with it. She will not admit she was wrong, she will not sincerely apologize, and she will not try to rectify the damage she did.
The reason guilt or shame is felt is that, despite what the offender might say, her words or actions WERE INTENTIONAL, or at the very least, SELFISH. One way or the other, she knew what she was doing and the effects it might have, but she decided to do it anyway, and hope for the best. Otherwise she would have nothing to feel guilty about and no problem acting in a responsible manner and making amends. Her ego would not be at stake, and she would not react with the shame of someone who was “caught” doing wrong. One who feels guilty or ashamed will lie, deny, cover-up, blame others — anything but admit that she was wrong and take responsibility for her own words or actions.
Someone who is not ashamed of herself has no reason to deny or lie about what she did. She will acknowledge her actions, apologize for the pain she caused EVEN THOUGH SHE DIDN’T MEAN TO, admit she was wrong, used poor judgment, or made a mistake, do everything she can to make restitution, and NOT REPEAT the same offense in the future. She may feel embarrassed about her actions, but she will not feel the shame that leads to covering them up. And she understands that failure to take responsibility would be an even greater reason to be embarrassed.
When you demonstrate personal responsibility, you are living up to what is expected of you by your friends and family, society, yourself, and the Lord. You are acting in a righteous manner. Being accountable means being honorable. It means people can depend on you and rely on you. It means that others can trust you. It means you have integrity. It means that you will do whatever is necessary to right a wrong, and that includes repentance and restitution. ACCOUNTABLE people are people who can be COUNTED ON. When we REPENT of our wrongdoings, make amends and RESTITUTION to the people we have hurt by undoing the damage we have done, and take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for our words and behavior and their results, we teach others that we are honorable, trustworthy, mature adults. This is what being accountable is all about.
Copyright 2003-2009. Luke173Ministries.org