“Since you already have your degree, you are free to audit any class for just $15.”
What a deal! The local community college was a treasure house of subjects I’d always been interested in but that had never fitted into my degree requirements. I now could take beginning ballet! I could learn another new language!
I didn’t fully realize what a great experience this would be until my first day in German class. I was the only auditing student and the professor assured me I wouldn’t be responsible for any tests or quizzes. I was more than welcome to still take them, but the grade I received wouldn’t be recorded.
Now this gave me the freedom to skip class, daydream, not study and just be a sponge absorbing without giving back. But I wanted to get the most out of my experience, so I decided to hold my own feet to the fire, study and take those tests. I would hold myself accountable. And what a freeing experience that was! I know I was more relaxed and able to learn better without the weight of a grade hanging over me.
Some people seem to be auditing life on their own terms. They chafe at any attempts to be held accountable. They simply want to be that sponge absorbing whatever they encounter. It reminds me of the phrase I often heard in the 1960s: “If it feels good, do it!” No worries. Just grab everything in front of you!
This sounds like the parable about the rich man who kept building bigger and bigger barns to contain his wealth. He complimented himself on his good fortune and told himself to take life easy. Eat, drink, and be merry! He was living the good life. Yet his soul wasn’t wealthy, he wasn’t “rich toward God.” And he had nothing to account for when he died (Luke 12:16-21).
We are held accountable in this life whether we like it or not. As children our parents hopefully had boundaries and expectations, they required us to heed. We were called to account whenever we tried to get away with anything we shouldn’t be doing.
The outside world also has its demands. The academics we engage in involves report cards and exams. As employees, we are subject to reviews. Profits are measured and graded. Our products have quality controls. Companies and organizations have regulations and policies to follow.
But what about the quality of our control? The effectiveness of our leadership? Who audits that? Who holds us accountable? As leaders we are responsible for results and for the welfare of those we lead.
Certainly, some leadership includes oversight by boards and end-of-the-year reviews and audits. But what does our leadership audit consist of? What is the bottom line, the ultimate outcome? Does it just focus on the balance sheet, the financial gains? Are there test results and progress reports? Do we just highlight statistics and achievements?
Or is it a closer examination of how those results came about? Does the audit include the why behind the numbers, how success was measured? Why are employees, students, parishioners, or customers staying or going? What does the encouragement to do better and be better look like? Was it the result of hardcore leadership with demands? And does it reflect an attitude of profit “at all costs,” as the only goal, like the rich man and his barns?
Although it may not be a formal review, our day-to-day leadership accountability deserves answers too. We should be held accountable for our actions and decisions on an ongoing basis. If we get too confident in our position of leadership, thinking we aren’t answerable to anyone, we ignore the responsibility to serve that’s given to us as leaders. That’s when it’s time to ask a close colleague to hold us accountable. Agree on what is important in leadership and in life and what lines not to cross.
The internal audit in a company or organization is like auditing a class. Holding ourselves accountable by our own standards. Internal audits are expected and routine. But the announcement, “We’re going to be audited!” often strikes fear. When the government steps in and truly holds us accountable, that’s when everything is laid bare. But we have nothing to fear if we’ve nothing to hide.
Some people live in fear of being audited when they die, when they realize their life will be up for review. When they have to face God Himself. I had a friend in high school who thought of God as the Great Accountant in the Sky who was constantly auditing her. I tried to explain that the “audit” had taken place hundreds of years before on Calvary’s cross. I told her we didn’t have to live our lives as if every move we make or word we say will end up as a mark in the credit or debit column of His book. Sadly, I don’t know if she ever understood what that meant.
I know I do have to give an account to God (Romans 14:12; Hebrews4:13). I can’t just be “auditing life” day-to-day with no concern for right or wrong, doing whatever feels good. Yet at the same time I know my sins have been and continue to be forgiven on account of the saving grace of my Lord Jesus (1 John 2:12). All those sins were put into His account and nailed to the cross.
The bottom line is I’m written in the Book of Life. I am assured of that. Yet I know I’m still accountable to use all my heart, soul, and mind to love my Lord Jesus and my neighbor, too.
I really am auditing life. But I want to get the most out of that life! I want to hold myself accountable to be engaged, show up, listen, and study. I want to delight in His will and walk in His ways to the glory of my Lord Jesus. That’s the freedom He gives me to audit my life without worries. That’s what it means to be His child. And what a freeing and joyful experience that is!