“I’m Not Authorized to Say Anything, But…”


“The source asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to comment.”

I find this to be one of the most damning, if not the most damning statements about our culture today.  This statement clearly identifies the fundamental problem associated with most problems that face this society – people are not accountable for their words let alone their actions!

  • The “source” isn’t authorized to comment, so why is the “source” saying anything?
  • The information obtained from the “source” isn’t authorized so why is it being reported?
  • And most importantly why am I reading the “information” obtained from a “source” that isn’t “authorized” to comment?

Whenever I come to the “not authorized to comment” statement in an article I immediately reject the information. How can I, or anyone accept the validity of the data if the person providing the information isn’t willing to be identified?  This is especially true of damning information that attacks the character of an individual.  Now I recognize that there are situations where the cloak of anonymity is the only way the information will be revealed.  In these rare situations the anonymous data must be supported by corroborating  material.

If the source can’t be identified then how can we hold that person and the reporter accountable?  And this is the problem and it is one that is epidemic in our culture and society.  We hardly give it any notice when people don’t follow through with what they say they are going to do.  We shrug our shoulders and move on to the next disappointment.

Of coarse the “anonymous source” scenario presented above is but one example of the lack of accountability in our society.  What about all those times when we don’t follow through with our commitments, ignoring or minimizing the consequences to others?  What’s going on inside of us that prevents us from being accountable, to ourselves and to each other?  We’ll explore the why shortly but first two additional examples:

My mother and father divorced when I was very young and my father would arrange to pick me up for weekend visits.  I was between 7 and 10 years old and I looked forward to these visits, not because they were extraordinary, I wanted to be with my Dad! I needed him in my life, I needed to learn about life from him.

I can remember sitting on the sofa in the small living room of our house looking out the picture window to the street anxiously waiting for my father to arrive.  At the end of our last weekend he had promised to pick me up at a specific time on a specific day and I made sure that I was ready when he arrived.  I’d sit there on the sofa watching each car go by hoping that the next one would be Dad.  The promised time would come and go but I’d remain at my post patiently waiting for him to pull up in his Chevy.  Some times I’d receive a call from him apologizing with the excuse that something came up and he forgot to call me earlier.  However, most of the time I just didn’t hear from him until we called to arrange the next visitation.

I can still remember the sting of disappointment when he failed to show up and this pain had significant influences on my life. I learned not to be accountable.  I struggle with accountability even today but earlier in my life I feared taking responsibility for my actions in both my personal life and my business experiences.  These were dark times and my actions and lack of integrity hurt people I cared about, just like my father hurt me.

Another example is the denial of Jesus by the apostle Peter.  In John 13:36-38:

Simon Peter asked Him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”

The Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

And sure enough we see in John 18: 15-17 Simon Peter denies any association with Jesus and goes on to deny him two more times before the rooster crows!

What prevented Apostle Peter from living up to his word?  Why wouldn’t I take responsibility for my actions?  The answer for me and I imagine it was true for Peter was FEAR – fear of the consequences if I stood with integrity and stayed true to my word.  The risk was too great for me to be accountable and to do the right thing.  It was easier for me to ignore the impact on others as long as I believed that I was getting away without paying a price.

But I did pay a price! And in the process I hurt family and friends!

It wasn’t until I had some strong, authentic men come into my life and forcefully show me how unaccountable I was and how I lacked integrity in my life.  These men challenged me to look deep within myself to expose the fear that I wasn’t a good enough person to maintain my word, to be responsible for my words and actions.  When I made a commitment with these men they would hold me accountable and wouldn’t let me off the hook if I wasn’t able to complete the promise.  Participation in these accountability circles taught me how to face my fears and take responsibility for my life and to live a life of integrity.  It wasn’t easy, in fact it was a challenge, one of the most difficult yet rewarding experiences of my life.

Part of the lesson learned was that the character quality of accountability is really three overlapping qualities that must be understood and integrated into our character in order to truly be accountable.

  • Accountability:  The ability to be counted on to fulfill my promises.
  • Responsibility:  The ability to respond, to take action and ownership of my words and actions.
  • Integrity:  The ability to keep my words consistent with my corresponding actions.

The other part of the lesson was that I needed men to mirror and challenge my behavior.  Without their strength and integrity I would continue to walk in the shadows of fear and abuse.  I would encourage you, if you struggle with accountability, to gather some friends and challenge each other to expose the underlying behavioral and emotional issues. Ask questions such as:

  • What prevented you from keeping your promise?
  • If you had kept your word what did you expect to happen?
  • What did you feel when you recognized that you broke your word?
  • What is the judgment you have about yourself when you don’t keep your word?

Understanding the nature of accountability and working with friends to transform my behavior led me to come face-to-face with the fundamental question, “Do I matter?”  While my life isn’t perfect my answer is yes!  How about you?

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About rightthoughts
Husband/ Father/ Grandfather/ Architect

2 Responses to “I’m Not Authorized to Say Anything, But…”

  1. joelaur says:

    Bob,

    The rabbis used to consider lashon hara- “literally, bad tongue”- as a sin on par with murder. Once words are spoken, they cannot be called back, their damage undone. They considered sharing bad information, even true as a heinous sin, unless it was essential to protect another.
    Anonymous words are even worse, as there is no one to hold accountable for the damage. With the Internet, harmful words, whether true or false, travel instantaneously around the world, for good or ill. “The slanderer speaks in Syria and kills in Rome”

    • Joe:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I find myself screaming at the TV or computer screen when I hear people says things that they won’t take responsibility for. They just toss stuff out there to be heard regardless of the impact on others. And so many people let them feet away with it.

      On another note, you sure know how to stir the ManInd Project pot with your Silverback questions. My only question is whether or not we “silverbacks” get a cool jacket to ware on weekends. You know something like a letterman’s jacket.

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