In this day and age, it’s fairly easy to excuse shameful behavior. I was drunk. I’m young. It’s college. We weren’t really “together” at the time. Or, as Chico Marx once explained to his wife, “I wasn’t kissing her, I was whispering in her mouth.” Going into my senior year of university now, I’ve heard an immense variety of rationalizations for things my peers aren’t proud of doing. One of the many things the past few years have taught me is that excuses are nothing more than thinly-veiled disservices to myself. They offer me a comfortable way out of an uncomfortable situation that I could potentially grow from.
I believe in accountability. I happen to think just about every excuse – barring the good ones, mind you – is a bad excuse. I choose listen to my conscience and try hard to not make mistakes. When I do make them, I try especially hard to not make them again. I hold that this is the route to becoming a better, happier person. I realize that lapses in judgment can potentially haunt me and creep up at inopportune moments down the road. The best excuse wouldn’t remedy the disappointment in my future wife’s eyes if she found out I was once featured on Guys Gone Wild (which I wasn’t, but you get the point).
My mistakes are often on my mind. I’ve owned up to and comfortably live with them. Life is, after all, an exercise in trial and error. Every night I go over what I would have rather done differently during the day. What drives me is, quite simply, a desire to criticize myself before someone else does it for me; to be genuinely proud of my track record. I don’t want something I did “back in college” to ruin my job eligibility or jeopardize future relationships. I try to be my own harshest critic.
I’m often asked if this relatively exacting philosophy has a negative impact on my self-esteem. In fact, it does the exact opposite: it ensures I’m always well under way to becoming the person I want to be. My self-criticism has allowed me to conclude that I’m very satisfied with who I am. I advocate meddling in – considering, reconsidering, and pondering over – your own business. Obviously, if you don’t recognize your indiscretions there’s no way you can take steps against their recurrence. Next thing you know, you’re caught in an unfortunate loop, making the same bad decision, coming up with a similarly bad excuse for it, and learning absolutely nothing from it all.
When I speak of accountability, I speak of having the guts to take the brunt of a bad call, knowing fully well that I could absolve myself from blame under a false pretense. I speak of the acknowledgment that not doing so would result in personal stasis. Lastly, I speak of taking certain measures to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Generally, subscribing to this idea testifies to a nagging desire for self-improvement; thus, I proudly consider myself accountable.
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