In an age of uncertainty, avoiding mistakes is often the tool of choice in playing it safe. Individuals and communities go to great lengths, listing what must be avoided at all costs. Books, seminars, and career advice focus on what must be avoided. In this context, the emphasis is on the absence of action.
Some take the concept to its logical extreme. By not doing any “wrong”, one avoids the obligation to be accountable for any negative outcome. Potentially being held accountable for a negative outcome must be avoided in order to win. Specifically, eliminate all chances for a misstep. Avoid taking risk (unnecessary). Never extend one’s self beyond the safety zone.
I believe that an absence of the wrong action does void the requirement to be accountable for what actually happened on your watch. In addition to not acting, this approach encourages ignorance. One is blinded to realities and opportunities because of the focus on avoiding the negative.
I am not the only one struggling with this paradox. I listen to reporters letting the na?ve, ignorant, and complacent off the hook. They have not “made a mistake” so the conclusion is that everything is ok. In fact, their ideas for the future are considered superior to someone in the thick of things that has tried and failed. I look back at history and see “The citizens and rulers in Jerusalem didn't recognize who he [Jesus] was and condemned him to death.” (Acts 13.27)
From my experience, avoiding the wrong steps comes with risks. Learning and corrective actions can be within sight yet beyond one’s reach because one only sees the story in context of what wrong. One misses the missing.
Today dawn comes with a series of opportunities. In the ordinary and complex, we must decide. With clarity and in confusion, we will be accountable for exercising our freedom. We cannot avoid the potential for failure. Risks, uncertainty, and confusion will be present. In the mix will be chance for us to make the world a better place. The invitation is open. We are accountable.