You’ve got to be ready to own something.
There is a common thread that I have seen in conflict, and that is the pushing past of the necessary steps for healing. I have seen many people who upon discovering that they were in the wrong, move quickly toward wanting things resolved almost immediately after this discovery. They are wanting to take a conflict that sits in one person no longer speaking to them, or someone feeling the pain caused by them to… let’s put it all aside and heal.
While healing is a wonderful goal, it is not achieved by simply stating the desire for it to happen. There are steps that must be taken, the biggest of these is accountability. We have to be accountable for the harm caused and work with those who have been harmed to resolve things equitably. This extends to the largest conflicts like the one the United States is experiencing in its desire for racial healing to the everyday conflicts at work, in our relationships, and in our homes.
Because we as a society do not have a good history with accountability and the kinds of necessary and difficult conversations it requires of us, we often find ourselves wanting it to just end and have peace without earning it.
There can be no real peace without honest and earnest accountability.
To hold ourselves accountable we have to be willing to:
1. Hear and see the harm caused. We have to stop and listen to those who have experienced the conflict in a harmful way due to our delivery or actions. That means we have to listen fully without interrupting especially when what we are hearing makes us uncomfortable.
2. We have to give the time and attention to encouraging the conversation. Getting comfortable with the question ‘what else do I need to know?’ and asking it several times throughout the conversation is important for getting it all out on the table.
3. Own our responsibility for leading in a better way. Whether it be as the CEO, manager, parent, elder or any other leadership role, fully acknowledging the responsibility to have modeled a better way to engage in conflict is critical to the process of moving toward healing.
4. Acknowledge that history is not just in the past, but also informs the present and the future. Wanting to put things behind us without understanding and discussing their impact leads to a path of resentment and distrust. History clings to the very fabric of the current conflict and cannot be simply taken off and discarded.
5. Apologize. Seeing, understanding, and owning our role and responsibility in how this conflict evolved, requires us to do the necessary work of issuing a sincere apology for the harm we caused. Be prepared that sometimes that apology needs to be public especially if the harm was done in front of others.
6. Do whatever is necessary and fair and right to make amends. Nobody likes to have to pay up, but if that is what is owed then do it. Often words alone cannot set right the course of history whether we are talking about equal pay, replacing a cherished item or reparations, accountability may just require us to come out of pocket even when we don’t want to.
7. Chart a path together toward true healing. Making top-down decisions about how this conflict is to be resolved doesn’t work. True leadership is not afraid of incorporating the voices of those harmed by asking and answering the difficult questions, the ones that make your heart race and your brow sweat because you know they will be hard to hear and respond to truthfully. But healing means digging deep.
8. Follow through on being completely accountable. Take the actions promised and do not stop taking them until healing is completed. Recognize that this may take more time than you want. The nature of all of us is to squirm in the discomfort of conflict rather than feel the growth that this process is bringing forth.
As the calls for healing and peace ring in our ears and our hearts, let’s take the time to understand what that really means. First and foremost, Accountability. Let’s all be accountable for our actions past and present.
It is the only way conflicts will get resolved, relationships will strengthen, offenses will be set right and healing will begin.
We can do this!
What are you owning up to today?
P.S. The waitlist for the On the Matter of Race Level 1 Program opens up for interview spots on February 1st. You can get on the Waitlist here.