A friend this week asked me to write about accountability. It’s a word that is thrown around a lot in both Christian and recovery circles. What is implied and how should one respond if asked to be in an accountability relationship?
In recovery terms, it is a more formal relationship, where a person volunteers to be a ‘sponsor’ to a less recovered individual. In moments of weakness, the sponsor is the ‘go to’ person to talk them through the temptation to slip back into destructive behavior.
In the church community it is usually a voluntary relationship between two or more individuals to help support a desired behavior, such as purity or some other form of self-discipline. It can be a ‘one way’ relationship, but it is often mutual. Sometimes accountability is a required relationship as part of a restoration process, imposed by an authority, such as a church board.
I would suggest a few things be considered if asked to enter into an accountability relationship.
First, are you entering into this relationship voluntarily or do you feel compelled or obligated to participate? You must have the right motivation and attitude to be authentically helped or helpful. You must feel free to say ‘no’ if asked.
Second, do you have the time? It will require being available on a regular basis for the process to be effective, whether you set up a scheduled time of connection, or on an ‘as needed’ basis. It is necessary to set the parameters of the relationship up front so that there are no unspoken expectations.
Third, are you inadvertently setting up an unwanted parent-child relationship? Peers should remain as such. Is there a risk that a dependent bond will be formed and you are opening yourselves up to potential resentments because of the imbalance? You must ask yourself “Is this the right accountability partner?”
Fourth, if the relationship is to be one of mutual accountability, do you trust the person? Will you feel safe? If not, you will not be completely honest and the arrangement will suffer. In our men’s group we put confidentiality and safety as the highest value. It is an area that cannot be compromised.
Accountability can be a good tool in our desire to be formed into the image of Christ. It can be part of our process to develop self-disciplines such as prayer, fasting, simplicity, celebration, service, solitude, study, meditation, submission, confession, worship, and guidance (from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster).
Some friendships need to remain just that, with no added burdens. In others, a deeper intimacy can be achieved by opening ourselves up to examination and correction.
Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.