Accountability. We all need it, yet most of us don’t have it. Even with those closest to us.
If you’re like most people, you probably have a few people in your life you consider a friend. At some point, they have inevitably seen the vulnerable parts of you–moments of sadness, frustration, anger, fear, and mistakes you’ve made.
And because they have stuck through it all, they become your besties, BFF’s for life. Yet, rarely do we give even these select few permission to speak into our lives.
Instead, you probably have this unspoken rule that communicates,
“If you love me, you won’t question me. If you are really my friend, you’ll let me do what I want, without making me feel guilty for it.”
We live in a culture that celebrates the “Do you” mantra. ‘Booboo’ is sometimes added for emphasis. “Doing you” has become equivalent with doing whatever makes you happy, void of anyone saying otherwise. Which make accountability look not only foolish, but dangerous to your happiness.
However, there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. True happiness cannot be found in living based upon feelings of the moment, but instead necessitates we live intentional lives. And accountability is the secret sauce to intentional living.
Accountability is the strategy for living an intentional life through empowering another to celebrate and confront you along the way.
It’s understandable that considering this level of transparency and empowerment might take some convincing and direction. Keep reading for both.
Why You Need It:
1. You’re not the you that you want to be.
If you are honest with yourself, you don’t always live up to your own expectations. Of course, there are moments when you are pretty pleased with yourself and rightly experience the joys of effective self-leadership.
But at your low points, you may ask yourself questions like… “Why did I do that?” Why did I say that” Why can’t I stop doing ______?”
The reality is we don’t always have the purest of motives or the consistency we long for. If you are like me you probably wish you consistently had the willpower to say no to another donut, Netflix episode, social media scroll, or whatever other tempting situation you often find yourself in.
And more than just these silly examples, the real person you deeply desire to become is waiting to be formed.
The type of spouse, father/mother, employee, entrepreneur, or leader you want to be, needs help.
That’s where accountability comes in–by having someone else who is on your side that wants the best for you. The image of accountability is less an angry coach and more a loving neighbor. Think George Feeny or best friend Cory Matthews (shout out to all the Boy Meets World Fans out their).
Accountability is desirable when you realize there could be someone else who celebrates and grieves the outcome of your life.
2. Self-help never works when you’re the problem.
I never understood self-help books. I mean I get the concept but I always thought… “How can I help myself when I’m the problem?”
Life is like that, isn’t it? Some of your biggest obstacles end up being your blind spots time and time again. Here’s the thing about blind spots. You don’t see them. Hence the name. And you can’t fix what you can’t see. And when it comes to leadership, you don’t know what it’s like being on the other side of you.
To become self-aware you must invite someone to share what they see. Good and bad.
However, sometimes the things you need to change aren’t blind spots. They are more accurately described as “I don’t care spots”. You just don’t care enough to do anything about them.
Whether this is due to your upbringing, the season of life you’re in, or your spiritual journey… you likely miss the frequent opportunities to question yourself about the questionable things in your life.
Here’s the truth… If you don’t have someone asking you hard questions, you likely won’t ask them of yourself. And as Jon Acuff has wisely said…
3. Your heart can be hard.
Ok, remember I’m trying to convince you why you need accountability. I’m not simply saying this is beneficial or an added bonus to your life if you have the time. I’m telling you it’s essential if you want less regret and more joy. Here’s why…
Sometimes your heart is hardest toward the things that matter the most. And when your heart is hard, it’s difficult to do what’s right.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe that Jesus knows how to live my life better than I do. I really believe that. But in the day to day, I constantly want to reject His truth.
I want to reject that Jesus knows what’s best for my marriage when I’m tempted to lust, speak with pride, or serve myself. I want to reject that Jesus knows what’s best for my finances when I want to store up for myself treasures on earth. I want to reject humility and pick up pride at work. I want more for me, even if that means less for others.
I regularly want to reject what I believe is true because my heart can be hard. You can probably relate. When your heart is hard you have a choice to make. You can either go it alone or bring a friend.
If you go it alone, you likely will tell yourself what you want to hear and probably do what your hard heart wants to do. If you bring a friend you’ve invited to hold you accountable, they will fight for your good, even when you don’t want it for yourself. They will remind you the cost of succumbing to temptation when all you are looking at is the temporary joy it would bring. They will love you despite your flaws but inspire you to move forward quicker than you would have on your own.
Accountability will change your life for the better. Now let’s talk about how to get it.
How To Get It:
1. Get Connected.
If you aren’t connected with people, you need to begin putting yourself out there. Join a Group at church, ask a few friends to get together once a month, invite someone out for dinner, do what’s needed to build relationships with people.
This likely won’t be convenient for you and you’ll probably have to adjust your Netflix schedule, but it will be worth it.
2. Find someone with character.
As you begin connecting with people, look for someone with character. This isn’t about finding the perfect person. This is about looking for a real person who is trying to trust Jesus with their life.
How do you spot this? It looks like someone who does what’s right, even when they don’t want to. It looks like someone who displays the fruits of the Spirit when it’s not convenient. They give love when people are cruel. They are patient when someone is annoying. They are joyful when life is hard, but the real evidence isn’t their perfection. It’s their transparent pursuit. They own the struggle and admit their failures.
A person of character won’t be perfect but they care about their imperfection deeply.
(BONUS TIP: At some point, you just need to choose someone, even if you aren’t 100% sure. It’s better to have imperfect accountability than no accountability.)
3. Ask for it.
Eventually, you have to just ask. What this looks like on the practical side will vary, but it begins with choosing to be transparent and vulnerable.
Tell the other person what you are looking for, why you need it, and why you think they would be the right person. If they say no, try again.
4. Plan for it.
Accountability cannot be sporadic. It must be intentional. The best practice is to schedule a day and time you plan to get together to talk about what’s really going on in your life.
Make it a priority and don’t make excuses.
5. Give them the dirt.
From the start, you need to give them the dirt. Tell them what you are struggling with. If you struggle with looking at porn, tell them. If your marriage is a wreck, don’t make it sound better than it is. If you have doubts about God, feel jaded by work, or eat too many donuts… be honest about it. Don’t waste time by being fake.
You’ll make zero progress if the person who is investing their time in you is getting to know the false you.
6. Be forthright, not reactive.
The person keeping you accountable isn’t omniscient. They don’t know what is taking place in your life and especially in your heart unless you tell them. The questions they asked you last week might be irrelevant today.
Your part is to be forthright, not reactive. Instead of waiting for your friend to ask about your time with God, tell them it hasn’t been going well. Instead of hoping they magically know about your Facebook addiction during work hours, be forthright and tell them what’s happening.
Accountability works best when you become more transparent with time.
7. Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
There is no point in spinning the ugly truth to make yourself look better. If you messed up, just own it. If things in your life aren’t great… don’t try to pretty them up. Accountability demands the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
There is something painfully difficult in sharing what you did and what you should have done with another. THIS IS GOOD. This awkwardness forces you not to be in denial about the severity of your issues and actually do something to change them.
This isn’t about making shame a tool for change. It’s about making you feel the weight of your choices and having someone in your corner who says, “You can do better!”
Potential Questions To Ask:
1. How are you?
Emotions matter. Knowing the condition of the person you are speaking with will determine the direction of the conversation.
2. How have you been doing with _______?
Accountability must be specific. Vagueness has no place here. Nailing down what you are struggling with is a MUST. Sometimes you need to ask about something you already know about. And other times you need to ask a question that hasn’t been discussed. Ask and pray for honesty.
3. What has your time with God been like this week?
I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between how often you spend time with God and how often you give in to temptation. It makes sense that the closer you are with Jesus, the more likely you are to trust and obey Him.
4. What haven’t we talked about that we need to?
The reality is there are a million things you could ask someone…
- Have you been above reproach with your finances?
- Have you been flirtatious with anyone at work?
- Have you spent quality time with your family?
If you ask 35 questions, there is a large possibility that number 36 was actually the important one. Accountability is a relationship, not a scripted interview. Most likely each of you will have something in the back of your mind you hope won’t be asked. That thing, whatever that might be, is what needs to be addressed.
5. Did you lie about anything we talked about today?
Ouch. Crazy to think that in this type of relationship someone would lie to you. But… it will happen. And more than asking this question, you have to be ready to hear, “Yes I did”. Your response, guided by the Holy Spirit, must be filled with grace and truth. Celebrate them owning the lie and dig deep into WHY they felt the need to protect themselves this way.