Resident Review: Accountability

I read an article on accountability a couple days ago for counseling. It was actually really, really good and made me think a LOT about the whole idea of having “accountability partners” as a Christian. Yes, I’ve heard the term a LOT before, and I’ve even loosely “used” some of my friends as accountability partners. I say “loosely” because after reading this article, I’ve discovered that my idea of an accountability partner is totally flawed. Yet it’s what the majority of people think it is. This article gave me a new understanding of the term and what it means to have an “AP”. (That’s what I’m going to call it because it’s too hard to type out the whole word every time, and I’m lazy!)

Christians need accountability. That’s a given. We all know that. Really, everyone needs accountability. But what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it does NOT mean, but what we usually think it means. It doesn’t mean a person who will ask you what you’ve been doing or thinking. It doesn’t mean someone who will be on your back to get you to confess your struggles to them so they can pray for you, etc. Accountability is ACTIVE, not PASSIVE. I’m going to quote Philip Huber in his article. “Without recognizing it, accountability can easily become a way of abdicating responsibility. In asking you to hold me accountable, you become the active agent and I become the object, or recipient, of that action. This passivity can be a set up for blame-shifting. Recently I heard of a fallen brother blaming his accountability partners for their failure to hold him up to adequate scrutiny. If they had asked the right questions at the right time in the right way with the right persistence he wouldn’t have fallen. That is, after all, why he asked them to hold him accountable.”

How many times have I done this myself? A thousand, I’m sure, if once. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I am responsible for my own actions – no one else. It is MY responsibility to go to my AP and tell them what is going on. I need to take the ACTIVE role, not the blaming, dependent role that I’ve used to often. Like weightlifting – a good spotter won’t intervene too quickly. He’ll let you struggle and offer encouragement, but he won’t intervene until absolutely necessary, and even then, he won’t lift the whole bar, he’ll only take on the minimal weight to help you get out of the situation.

I also need to be as detailed as possible. Going to my AP and telling them, “hey, I’m struggling with pride” is NOT going to help me. They’re not there to drag information out of me. They are there to offer support when I absolutely desperately need it, and encouragement. If I’m going to play the active role, I need to be specific. I need to say, “hey, on Tuesday morning, I was struggling with my pride because I was trying to do xyz perfectly by myself and not asking God for help. Can you pray that I’ll be able to ask Him for help and not try to do xyz alone and on my own strength?”

That is specifics. That is detailed. That’s what I need to get used to doing. It’s not up to my AP to continually ask me questions and pry things out of me so that I can place the blame somewhere else other than myself. If I’m struggling with something or sinning, I need to take the steps to change that, and one of those steps is talking to an AP or someone close about what it was that I was doing and how I need to change.

Anyhow, those are just some of my thoughts from reading Huber’s article. I have misused the accountability process in order to shift the blame anywhere other than myself, when that is the only place it ever needed to be placed. I’m sure a lot of other people have done this as well, or there wouldn’t be such a screwed up system and definition of accountability partners. But let’s just say that I’m going to definitely work on this and try to change my perspective. I need to hold MYSELF accountable first and foremost. I need to search MY OWN heart and my OWN thoughts and respond how God would want me to. Having the extra support of an accountability partner is meant to strengthen both them and me, and not to be a way to blame others for my own failures.

Jocelyn Wallace
Jocelyn was the executive director of the Vision of Hope residential treatment center ( on the campus of Faith Ministries until 2013. Her experience in the biblical counseling field goes back to 2002, and includes work in parachurch organizations and Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries.