How to be a good person – The rule of accountability

During my youth, like so many others before and after me, I gave a lot of thought to the meaning of life, morality, ethics and what makes a good life.

Like so many, the meaning of life remained eluded me, as did finding an absolute culture-independent ethics.

And yet, somewhere between reading Nietzsche, truck-loads of great Science Fiction of the likes of Philip K. Dick and the Greek classics I had an epiphany:

Do what you can account for;
account for what you have done.

This may well be an existing school of philosophy that I am unaware of, nor do I really care. This rule has served me well in the last decade, it at once covers action and accountability, it gives a guideline for the past, present and future. So what does it actually mean to me?

Let’s say you are on the highway, in a rush, tempted to go over the speed limit. You deem it safe to go faster, and you really need to be on time for your appointment. So, in case you drive too fast and are stopped by the police, are you willing to answer honestly when asked about your behavior?

Interestingly, committing to fully account for my actions leads to a restraint in what I am willing to do,! And rather than referring to an external authority, a rule book, or even the Golden Rule, this guideline allows me to do anything that I feel comfortable standing up to, with all the consequences that may ensue. Quite obviously, this rule ties in nicely with my commitment for absolute truthfulness with all its challenges.

Of course, “account for what you’ve done” can mean all kinds of things. It might mean answering honestly when asked, or it may mean proactively communicating your actions whenever you deem it relevant.

Listening to the excellent, fabulous audiobook The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path it became clear to me that this rule had a lot of overlap what the author calls “Perfect Speech”, which relies heavily on honest, truthfulness, empathy and communication skills.

I invite you heartily to try on the rule of accountability and to see whether it has as life-changing an effect on you as it did on me.

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