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"Being responsible for your decisions and actions"

(See also Self-Control/Virtue, Honor)

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The Need for Accountability

How to Be Accountable

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It Wasn't My Fault!

None of us like to take full responsibility for our actions. Instead, we try to blame others or blame circumstances beyond our control. Take, for example, these descriptions of auto accidents as people worded them on their insurance claim forms.

The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intentions.

I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and drove over the embankment.

A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.

The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve several times before I hit him.

As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before; I was unable to stop in time to avoid an accident.

In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.

The pedestrian had no idea what direction to go, so I ran over him.

An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.

The power pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.

What do you see in common about these descriptions? It was always somebody else's fault or a seeming unavoidable circumstance. The other car was all over the road. My mother-in-law distracted me. Who could have avoided an invisible car or a fast approaching telephone pole? It wasn't my fault.  I suppose the telephone pole or the fly should pay for the damages. 

 Yet, those who always blame others refuse to see their own faults and thus never improve. As famous Psychologist Carl Jung once said, ''The only person I cannot help is one who blames others.''

This week, let's try to catch ourselves when we're playing the "blame game." Let's listen to ourselves when we say, "All my bad grades are my teachers' faults." "He was so obnoxious that I couldn't help but hit him."  Let's accept whatever part of the blame is ours, admit our weaknesses, and commit ourselves to improve. 

Discussion Questions:

1) Which of the drivers' excuses was your favorite?
2) When is it okay to blame others?
3) Why do we try to blame others, even when something was mostly our own fault?
4) What do you think of people who always blame others?
5) What do you think psychologist Carl Jung meant when he said, ''The only person I cannot help is one who blames others.''? 
6) What's some area of your life where you minimize your own responsibility and blame people or circumstances instead? 
7) How could you take more personal responsibility in that area this week?


Responsibility Ain't Easy, But It Can Pay Off Big Time 
The George Foreman Story

Story time!!! I want to tell you a story of a real person and his experiences with responsibility and irresponsibility. Listen carefully so that we can discuss it afterwards. (For all who aren't interested in listening and participating, I've got an extra Algebra worksheet to keep you from being bored.)

Younger people may know George Foreman from advertisements for the George Foreman Grill. Older folks remember him as one of the greatest boxers of all time. In his remarkable lifetime record, he fought 81 times, winning 76 times, 68 of them by a knock out.  (1)

But Foreman wasn't always famous. He grew up poor...really poor. His dad wasn't responsible and nobody could count on him. That left all the responsibility on his mom to support the family, holding down two jobs and working seven days a week. 

But her work as a cook barely paid the rent. And there seldom seemed to be enough food for her seven children. So George grew up hungry. His bagged school lunch was often nothing more than a mayonnaise sandwich. The days he had nothing at all, he'd blow up a brown paper sack to make it look full. Sure, he could have probably asked someone for free food, but he was embarrassed for anyone to find out how poor he was. (2) 

But when he got a job as a teen, he met some responsible adults who helped him discover and develop his natural talents as a boxer. By age 19, he fought his way to an Olympic gold medal. In his early 20's, he defeated the seemingly invincible Joe Frazier, knocking him down six times in four rounds to become the heavyweight champion of the world. 

After he'd gotten too old for boxing, he tried to put his wealth and fame to good use in helping others, especially those who grew up poor like him. So he started a boys' club near Houston to help underprivileged kids learn athletics and get wise counsel about life. He entrusted the rest of his money to a person smart in finances who could make sure he'd have enough money to live on for the rest of his life. But he got ripped off.

One day Foreman was shocked to discover that his financial advisor had gone through all his money, leaving him with nothing. You can imagine his shock at not only losing his fortune, but being betrayed by a friend. What would you have done? He was too young to retire, but too old and out of shape in his late 30's to fight.

He could have taken the low road, destroying the person who destroyed him and spending the rest of his life in isolation and bitterness. But he decided that two wrongs don't make a right. Instead, he took the high road - he forgave. And if someone's irresponsibility got him into this mess, he'd use responsibility to get out of it.  Almost everyone said he was too old for boxing - a sport dominated by the young, the quick and the energetic. But he decided that it was the only way to responsibly provide for himself and to save his teen center from bankruptcy. (3)

Now you don't just jump back into the ring and start fighting. It had been 10 years since he'd boxed. He knew he had a hard road ahead of him. At 315 pounds, he was about 100 pounds over his competitive weight. So his wife would drive him five, eight and ten miles away and drop him off to run all the way home. Even as a champ, he'd never run over three miles. 

Then he'd have his brother Sonny hold the heavy bag for him to do a half hour solid of right hand hits, then a half hour of left hooks, then a half hour of jabs. Try it sometime. Sonny hadn't thought he'd last ten minutes, but Foreman had willpower that just wouldn't quit. 

He'd skip backward along the inside perimeter of the ring for the equivalent of ten rounds, then jump rope for two three-minute rounds. With grueling exercise and a strict diet, he lost 85 pounds and hoped his body was in good enough condition to fight the young competitors. 

But he faced other hurdles. The athletic commission initially refused to allow him to fight because of his age. And when he finally announced his return to professional boxing, the sports writers laughed at him.  He dreaded prancing around in a ring without a shirt, with his fat out there for all to see. People thought fighters should all look like Rocky, with six-pack abs. (4)

Nobody likes to be laughed at, and especially out in public through the media. What kept him going? His youth center. In his own words:

"I couldn't allow 15-year-old boys to go on shooting people and ending up in jail. I had to help these kids." (5) 

So he started fighting small matches and shocking everyone by actually winning.  But this was small time boxing. Many considered it just club entertainment. So when he finally got the chance to fight Michael Moorer, the heavyweight champion of the world,  nobody gave him much odds of winning. The announcer would say that he thought the odds were a zillion to one in favor of Moorer. At age forty five, Foreman was old, overweight and a boxing has-been. What chance did he have against the young, reigning world champion?

Well, let's see the last couple of rounds to see how he faired. 

(Go to www.youtube.com and search for "George Foreman." Choose the title:   "George Foreman vs Michael Moorer 5/11/94 last round." Make sure the volume and visibility is good enough for them to feel like they're there. And don't do the search live in front of the class, since the home page of youtube might have some offensive pictures on any given day.)

Foreman regained his title and his money and kept his honor. It wasn't easy, but being responsible paid off in the end. 

So the next time people let you down, people laugh at your dreams, people say you're too dumb, too ugly, too young or too old, remember an old, overweight guy in the ring who shocked everyone by becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.  

Discussion Questions

1) How did an irresponsible money management mess up George's life?  
2) What would would most people have done in this situation? 
3) Why did he get back into boxing? 
4) What did he have going against him? 
5) If you were to tell your problems to George Foreman, what do you think he would suggest for you to do? 


1) Wikipedia on George Foreman.
2) George Foreman and Joel Engel, By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman (Villard Books, New York: 1995) pp. 3ff. 
3) Ibid., pp. 190, 191. 
4) Ibid., pp. 226-234.
5) Ibid., p. 226.

The Need for Accountability

Giftedness insures a good start. Accountability insures a good finish. [Heard from Andy Stanley]


Famous Psychologist Carl Jung once said, ''The only person I cannot help is one who blames others.''


Pat Riley was one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. One of his secrets was producing positive peer pressure. According to Riley, ''Positive peer pressure intensifies any team's performance and brings it closer to peak.'' By ''positive peer pressure,'' Riley means ''mutual monitoring and mutual reinforcement.'' But he could only build this after building trust among the players, replacing blaming and finger-pointing with positive monitoring and reinforcement. (Pat Riley, The Winner Within, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1993, p. 72)


Use this to show how we justify our own actions and put others down rather than dealing honestly with our own shortcomings:

''Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.'' - George Carlin


People most strenuously seek to evaluate performance by comparing themselves to others, not by using absolute standards. ( Leon Festinger)

How to Be Accountable

Don't blame your circumstances...

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them. (George Bernard Shaw in ''Mrs. Warren's Profession'', 1893)

Need more on "Accountability"? See also these related traits:  Self-Control/Virtue, Honor.