Fraternity and Accountability

As an undergrad at Virginia Tech, I was involved in many student organizations. I joined a fraternity as a freshman and eventually became the Vice President after serving in several other roles. 

Many people don’t understand the purpose of college fraternities.  It might be  surprising to some, but in fact, the purpose of a fraternity is to take good men and make them better by instilling values. Every fraternity has a set of core values. The values of my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, are Mutual Assistance, Intellectual Growth, Trust, Responsible Conduct, and Integrity. I made a life long commitment to these values in my initiation and I often grade myself on how I put them into action. The media doesn’t portray this most times because it’s not newsworthy when fraternity chapters are living their values the way they’re supposed to. To be fair, there are a lot of fraternity chapters that aren’t promoting a values based experience the way we’re supposed to so I don’t blame the media for the negative perception that’s out there. I take personal responsibility for that and volunteer as an advisor to do my part in advancing the Fraternity and Sorority movement in a positive direction. I know. We have a lot of work to do. More on this in future posts.

As the Vice President of my fraternity as an undergrad, I learned a lot about accountability and its place in loving relationships. The conflict that arises when you have to hold a friend accountable is never easy to handle. It takes courage to confront someone whose behavior is incongruent with the organization’s values. As the vice president I oversaw the chapter’s judicial board. We were responsible for holding men accountable for living the values of our organization. This was incredibly difficult but so necessary for us to continue to have a values based experience and a positive culture. Holding your best friends accountable and risking relationships you really value for the principles you believe in leaves a mark on you. For example, it takes incredible courage to risk a relationship and recommend someone be removed from the group. You have to take the position that they’ll understand in the long run it’s most likely better for the chapter, and the individual will learn from the experience and respect you later for making the hard choices you made while acting as a leader.

The primary point I want to get across here is that accountability, when coming from the right place, is love in action. A person who is willing to brave the fear of conflict because they care enough about you to have a hard conversation is a rare thing in this world and something that should be cherished. Anyone that is willing to deal with the conflict that arises when giving someone criticism should be met with kindness and appreciated for braving the fear it takes to enter into that conversation so that you might benefit in the end. 

I think we all have a love hate relationship with accountability. One thing fraternity taught me was I couldn’t become the best version of myself without other people around me trying to do the same and holding me accountable to becoming the best version of myself as well. We all instinctively know that having an accountabilabuddy when starting a new work out habit is much more likely to succeed.  On the other hand, being held accountable by that person and being told directly that you’re not living up to the expectations you set really sucks. No one likes to hear they’ve disappointed someone, but it’s often times what we need.

I think there is a miss guided idea out there that love is accepting someone for who they are regardless. If taken to the extreme this is unhealthy. We all have our faults and no one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean your should create an environment for someone that enables them to become stagnant in their growth. I’ll concede that there is a certain level of acceptance we need to feel with people to have the security to enter into these conversations in the first place, but make no mistake; it is not an act of love to tell someone they don’t need to quit smoking and you accept them for who they are.

So what do you look for in friends? Do you look for people that will have your back no matter what you do or do you look for people who will tell you when you’re screwing up? Maybe you’ve figured out how to be an expert at doing both for others. If you’ve got advice for me and the rest of us on how to balance the love hate relationship with accountability please share it with us.

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