Thursday, August 28, 2008

The "A" Word

It makes me want to run for cover. It makes some people just cringe at the thought of it. I'm sure many are scared or unwilling to ask for it, while many others embrace the thought of it. In a walk of faith though, it is necessary & good. This awful awesome word?


I wish I had many good things to say about this concept. I long to share how accountability has been a blessing in my life and in the lives of others. Maybe the blessings are slow coming & maybe there have been some that I am just unaware of. It seems there is ONE sure-fire way for YOU to stray from your desired course of action: Ask ME to keep you accountable for it. Somehow I am a magnet for those who want accountability, but then stray & reject my counsel.

"Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning."

~ Proverbs 9:8-9

I have grown skeptical in recent days that there are even relationships that exist where the people can hold each other to higher standards. I don't just mean encouragement or motivation or inspiration. I am a big believer in "iron sharpening iron" or as I like to say "spurring each other on to greater things", but accountability is *so* much more than that. Isn't it? There have been lots of cases recently when I really wished I could have spoken truth {drenched in love} into my friends' lives saying something like, "God really doesn't want you to be doing that....."

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." ~ Galatians 6: 1-2

It just doesn't seem like many people embrace accountability these days, especially when they didn't ask for it in the first place. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that when we, as Christians, become part of the Kingdom Family, accountability is just part of the package, whether we like it or not. I'm sure there have been plenty of times when I didn't respond as well as I should have to some rebuke or other wise counsel, but that would only be because of my own foolishness.

My notes-to-self & questions to ask the next time someone asks me to keep them accountable:

How serious are you about this matter? How badly do you want to "not stray"? You would think that just the act of asking for accountability would indicate their seriousness, but I don't believe this is always the case.

How does accountability look in a practical way?
Do you want me to ask you about this once a week? Once a month? Nearly every day?

Who should I ask to get involved if you start backsliding into your old ways? I think this is pretty important, then if that person doesn't follow through, they won't be surprised when you show up with the pastor/husband/parent to sit down and have a talk.

What Bible verses {if applicable} are going to help you in your desired actions? "I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You."

The worst note of all?

Be prepared for a broken or lost relationship. This is an unfortunate & distinct possibility. I am grieving over this reality as we speak. If the other person begins making wrong choices & rejects our counsel, they may distance themselves from us because *we* remind people of what they had held in their hearts at one time & the commitment that they had made to us, themselves, and God.

I am totally un-perfect & I don't want to seem like I have this issue all figured out. These are just some things that I've learned {the hard way} throughout my adult life. I believe that accountability can be a beautiful thing. I have to believe that. Now that I think about it, I have been honored, simply by the fact that people have felt safe enough to choose me to come alongside them in their walk.

Maybe you are scared of accountability. Maybe you have seen the blessings of it. Maybe you have seen relationships broken because of it. Maybe you don't think you really need it.

In any case, I'd love for you to share your thoughts.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
~ Hebrews 10: 24


Erin said...

I might be way off track but I believe that accountability is all about the approach.

I don't know how you are with your accountability people.

I do know that to be effective as a partner of this kind you need to enter the agreement with LOVE at the forefront. You and the partner need to know that if someone happens to "slip", it's ok! We all slip.

I guess...if I was afraid that my partner would take it personally, be hurt, think badly of me, etc. I might not even tell this person just what I was going through, thus fracturing what should have been a beautiful relationship.

OK...I should have mentioned at the top of this that I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE WITH YOU AS A PARTNER SO I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT PEOPLE ARE THINKING. I was just thinking about other partnerships.

This might be yet another bad example...but my mom is a great accountability partner. She holds me to a high standard but loves me unconditionally when I falter.

Is that because she is my mom???

I don't think so. I think it is mostly because she has put LOVE at the forefront of our relationship.

I know there are teachings in the Bible about how those who follow Christ should have fellowship with each other, "sharpen" each other and go to each other for guidance.

BUT there are far more mentionings of LOVING each other in the Bible. I have to question the frequency of this topic, in regards to the relavance of it.

And I have to tell you, that there are people that God has brought into my life for a short time to either teach me something or to use me in their lives. Some of those people I don't have contact with now, but really because I felt God's leading to walk away and let him work. I do not leave those relationships fractured because I value the time that I had spent with them and want them to know that I am available if they need me.

I don't know if this makes sense..

Stephanie said...

Aside from my mom, (like Erin mentioned) I haven't ever had experience in this area.

I remember you asking me once about my upkeep with my restriction of 1-hour television each night. And I thank you for that! I didn't even ask you to, but you cared enough to remember and that meant a LOT!

But that's my single experience with anything relating to accountability. I think I'm scared of exposing myself to anyone, so I completely shy away from it and avoid it.

I know. I'm a coward...:-/

Rebecca said...

@Erin: My post was more referring to formal accountability relationships set-up for a specific purpose, of which I haven't had many. Not just the general "spurring one another on" type scenario. I think I really need to open myself & make some more "formal" type agreements with a few close trusted friends, as in, for them to be able to point out anything in my life that may hinder my relationship with Christ. Scary, but good. I agree with you about the approach factor. I totally agree that LOVE is of utmost importance, especially when dealing with difficult issues in other peoples' lives or confrontations. BUT, as I recently found, even with the kindest, most encouraging, loving words, the other person might still continue in their ways, leaving me with some tough decisions to make.....

@Steph: You're not a coward!! Accountability doesn't have to be about something deep, dark & scary. It could be something as simple as having someone keep you accountable for your daily quiet times or praying for 5 minutes or using kinder words towards your husband. Baby steps = small victories. Then you can work up to the scary stuff, LOL.

Saralyn said...

My two-cent's worth is that most accountability relationships fail because they are often composed of acquaintances thrust together by a church ministry into artificial friendships set up to monitor each other's behavior.

First of all, everybody's got baggage. If I tell you what's really going on with me, you could be freaked out and hit the road, taking my sordid tale with you. Or maybe you could decide to be the sin police, cracking down on things that may (or may not) be sin in my life, leaving me more wounded than I was in the first place. I have to really know you first to trust you with my life-stuff.

Secondly, even if someone can monitor my behavior they cannot change my heart. And without true heart change I'm just a white-washed tomb. Many accountability programs give people a list of questions--did you do this or that this week?--that are really behaviorism. People are left with a false security that they've got it all together if they can answer the questions right, or are left completely defeated if they can't, forgetting that Jesus was the one Who lived the perfect life, and He's already died for our incompetence and is waiting to wipe away our sin upon repentance.

After suffering through the revolving door of accountability partners for about 20 years now, I've discovered that what I really need is a true friend. One who's willing to go through the dark places with me instead of just reminding me what a hideous sinner I am, or giving me a check off list to make me a better Pharisee. My sharpening girl has struggled (and I choose that word on purpose) with me for about six years now. Some of those years have been very painful, but we're growing, and not because we meet weekly to go over our list, but because we've poured into each other's lives--good, bad and ugly.

My suggestion? When someone asks for accountability, suggest trying friendship instead.

Peaceful Chaoz said...

So I have taken a lot of time considering all of this, being on both sides of accountablity, not sure exactly how I feel about whats been said so far (nothing bad, just maybe not understanding all of it) but came across this and liked it so I thought I would share....

"A Good Definition of Accountability
July 18, 2007 — Kevin Watson
I recently came across a definition of accountability that I found helpful. It is from Dr. James B. Scott and Dr. Molly Davis Scott’s book Kingdom People:

Accountability is not judgment, nor judgementalism. Accountability is an attitude of love and care about self and other people we love and trust. Accountability is the commitment to self and other loved ones to encourage, teach, build up, and sometimes to correct each other in order to be Kingdom People doing Kingdom Living. Accountability with this attitude and in this context is love assuring salvation. One tangible place where there needs to be accountability is in the finances, but the intangible areas, like connecting with God, must be held accountable also. Simultaneously evaluating every ministry of the Church tells us where we are succeeding and where we need to re-evaluate and improve.

This definition helps us to see that the central goal of accountability is to help each other grow in our faith. The goal is not to gleefully point fingers, but rather to help each other to take steps forward in faith. This kind of accountability, as Wesley put it, involves “watching over one another in love.”"

Anyways, I know we'll probably end up talking about it more personally, so I'll just save my own stuff for that time! If I have any, lol ;0)

Rebecca said...

@Alicia: I think that's a great description/definition of accountability. I loved the simple definition of "watching over one another in love". I think it's all to easy for some to do "gleeful finger-pointing". I guess, in a way, I find it ironic or funny that the snippit you posted mentions keeping people accountable in the areas of finance and connecting with God {worship/quiet times/prayer}, as I think these two areas are the most sensitive & touchy issues and seem to be, at least in many of the conversations I have, to be "off-limits" topics.

I think I will commit the term "watching over one another in love" to memory now :>)