Accountability. It's such a scary word, isn't it? We usually think of accountability only when we think of a particular sin in someone's life such as a man struggling with pornography or a woman struggling with a shopping addiction. But I don’t think we need to be struggling with a specific issue in life to need accountability but rather to use accountability in our life to further us along in our spiritual life and to experience the benefits of the Christian community around us. When we hold ourselves accountable to another brother or sister-in-Christ, we become vulnerable to them...and that's the scary part. We don't like feeling vulnerable.
Vulnerable - adjective
|1. ||capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.|
|2.||open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc. |
|3.||(of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend.|
No one wants to be in a place of vulnerability. The phrase that stands out to me in the above three definitions though is "difficult to defend." When we give up defense of ourselves, we gain insight and maturity. It is always in defending ourselves that we choose to stay blinded to our shortcomings. I have to admit, that's a very tough one for me as it's definitely within my nature to defend myself in every regard. I have an innate sense of justice that may be good in some situations for the benefit of others but gets me in trouble when it comes to myself.
Placing ourselves in the hands of our accountability partner/group does indeed make us open to criticism, but isn't that the point? None of us are perfect yet hearing others tell us we aren't perfect results in an automatic defense of our imperfections. To allow ourselves to be open to the encouragement of others and give up all defenses is a sign of a mature Christian.
It's so easy as an adult to feel like we don't answer to anyone. I have to admit that after growing up in a very disciplined, restrictive environment, I revel in the fact that I'm an adult able to make my own decisions and sometimes even remind myself that "I can do whatever I want now." Though this may seem true, it's simply an illusion for the most part. Though I can now make an insignificant choice to have chocolate cake for breakfast (which I would never do, btw!) or decide to spend a night on the town with my girlfriends without permission from my parents, I'm still under the headship of my husband and still accountable to God. I still have to answer for my actions, if not to the people in my life, then to God Himself.
What is accountability? It is a check and balance system to protect us from harm from ourselves and others. We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so we can receive encouragement and reproof, when needed. Christian accountability is accounting for what we are up to. It is the realization that we are liable, responsible, and answerable for our actions in life to God (Matt. 12:36; Rom. 2:16; 14:2; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10), as well as to key Christians in our life (John 13:34 Gal. 6:1-2; Philip. 2:4; Heb. 10:23-24; James 5:16). Thus, we need to hold to our beliefs and keep in line with what we believe so it does not distract us from God’s path for us or discourage others from their path.
Accountability allows us to be answerable to one another, focusing on key relationships such as with our spouse, close friends, colleagues, coworkers, a boss, small group members, and pastor. It is sharing, in confidence, our heartfelt Christian sojourn in an atmosphere of trust. Then, we can give an answer for what we do and understand where we need help in areas where we are weak and struggling, where and how we are growing, what we are learning, and to be encouraged. These precepts help us to stay on track, and get prayer, care, and support when we fail. We can also model guideposts for one another in order to keep going.1
I do feel we need to be careful who we invite into our lives for accountability purposes. Many Christians have gotten burned by poor accountability attitudes and practices, and I do believe there is a proper and improper way to go about it. Mike Foster from Deadly Viper actually does not like nor agree with the word/concept of accountability but rather encourages advocacy between believers. He feels that "Christian accountability has deformed into a very ugly, uninspiring and broken system."
...Advocacy spurs us on to the “yes.” It revolves around the crazy good things that we should be engaging in. It pushes us to live a life of positive risks, creativity, adventure, and significance. We rally around each other in this and focus our relationships around this theme.2
Another good blog about accountability can be found here at Semper Reformanda which includes 20 questions to ask each other to help keep ourselves accountable. "I once heard Chuck Swindoll say something to the effect of, 'Your accountability partner can ask you anything he wants, otherwise you're not really accountable.'" Check out the questions and see if you'd feel comfortable answering them truthfully. So what are your thoughts on accountability/advocacy? Is it or should it be an integral part of the Christian walk? Have you ever used accountability to others in the past and/or do you use accountability in your life now?
Moral conduct includes every thing in which men are active and for which they are accountable. They are active in their desires, their affections, their designs, their intentions, and in every thing they say and do of choice; and for all these things they are accountable to God." ~Nathaniel Emmons
1. Excerpt from Discipleship Tools website - please check it out as it's a great article on accountability.
2. From the Conversant Life site - For an interesting perspective, read Mike Foster's entire article on "Why I Don't Believe in Accountability" .
* Definition of Accountability from Dictionary.com.