It’s on Me
“You don’t just say to somebody that they need to be accountable and magically poof they’re accountable.”
Annette Lantz-Simmons – Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution, KCMO.
Accountability for harm done is complex. These stories reveal how sobriety, maturity, guidance and education are prerequisites to the development of a felt sense of accountability for our actions. Old grievances and excuses are replaced by a genuine desire to live better.
Susan Burton, in her autobiography Becoming Ms. Burton, writes, “I made a list of the people I had harmed. In addition to people I knew, I had many people I didn’t know, including those whose identities I’d stolen. I even added the courts - I had stood in many courtrooms because I had broken the law, and I was now holding myself accountable.”
Danielle Sered , author of Until We Reckon, puts it this way, “…accountability is to those responsible for harm, what grief is to those harmed. It is an unparalleled tool for responsible parties to transform their shame, and in so doing, to recuperate a sense of dignity, self-worth, connectedness, and hope - things they lost when they caused the harm. Accountability is as essential as any grieving process to restoring us to our best selves.”
Annette Lantz-Simmons, Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution in Kansas City believes, “People lack the felt emotional sense of the harm they have caused because their own trauma was never acknowledged and healed.”
Piper Kermin, author of Orange Is the New Black, says, “There is the expectation that confinement alone will create the incentive and means for an individual to make a change in their life. But it doesn’t…. How can a prisoner understand their punishment to have been worthwhile to anyone, when it’s dealt with in such an offhand and indifferent way?”
To paraphrase Georgia Walker, Co-Founder of Journey to New Life, “Using Restorative Justice as a way of life philosophy, we at Journey and Peace House assiduously avoid punishment as an automatic response to wrong doing. Instead of being punitive, we help our residents find ways to recognize and take responsibility for healing the harm they have done and move forward with new ways of coping with life’s challenges.”
The Hazelden Betty Ford center clarifies the difference between apologizing and making amends. “Think of amends as actions taken that demonstrate your new way of life… whereas apologies are basically words. When you make amends, you acknowledge and align your values to your actions by admitting wrongdoing and then living by your principles.”