For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
I’m not sure what comes to your mind when you think about the word ‘accountability’. You might think of the time of year when your accountant tells you how much (or little) you are going to receive from the federal government in your tax refund. ‘Accountability’ might also make you think of regularly meeting with fellow Christians where you are telling each other of the various sins you’ve committed and you encourage one another not to do these things. Or maybe you think of the day of judgment when we will all stand before God and give an account for what we have done in this life. These things are not exactly what is meant by the idea of accountability – it is planning to change where you should desire accountability. As we consider this last important aspect of planning, we’ll look at tools needed to accomplish this as you grow to become more like Christ this year. Accountability with another brother or sister in Christ is going to be a key aspect to your change.
Why is Accountability Needed?
Right about now you may be thinking to yourself, “I do not need accountability. I am doing just fine thank you very much!” And the reality is you may be doing just fine. There may be no obvious sin in your life that is all consuming or enslaving. You may not be hooked on porn or drugs or other enslaving sin. You may not be having a hard time getting into the Word of God. You may have a prayer life that is robust. However, the reality is that all of us need accountability, for a few reasons.
The first reason we all need it is because of the natural ebbs and flows of the Christian walk. All of us will have times that we are doing well, and times that we are not doing well. Accountability seeks to ensure that the lows do not get too low and that you do not stay there too long. The second reason we all need accountability is that we are all blind to the sins that we have in our life. You may think you have a firm grasp on the sin that you have in your life, but the reality is there are spots in your life that you are totally blind to. Finally, we all need accountability because we need to be a part of helping someone else grow to be like Christ. You may be doing ‘fine’ right now, but someone else may not be. You should be in a tight relationship that is focused on sharpening, because God may be wanting to use you in the life of someone else to become more like Christ (Pr. 27:17).
How Should you Do Accountability?
Hopefully with these points, you have been convinced that you should be in accountability with someone—in fact, you may be in accountability with someone right now. So what does it look like to do accountability? What are the parts that you should have, and what is essential for doing it?
- Regular Meeting—You have to meet on a regular basis. If you are not meeting frequently (weekly is best) then you will not be able to really help each other grow.
- Specific Goals—You need to use that Personal Improvement Plan that you drafted (or an edited version of it) to really guide your meetings. You may need to set aside a part of the plan to handle something more pressing that comes up, but once the fires are put out, you should return to the plan.
- Ask Good Question—When you are in your meeting, you should be asking questions to each other. You should ask not only questions that get to what happened this past week, but also what is at the heart of the person. Asking a question like, “Why did you do that? What was it you wanted? What do you think your heart idol is in this?”
- Assign Good Homework—In your meeting, you have to assign practical steps of change that you are going to hold each other too. You can’t just meet up and talk about how your week was. You need to assign the practical steps of change each week if you want to change and help your partner change.
- Follow up through the week—While you are meeting once a week, you should consider following up with each other through the week. Many times, the homework that was assigned should be followed up through the week. You may also want to encourage one another and speak the truth at times that are needed.
What to do if you do not have it?
After reading this about accountability, you may realize that the regular meetings that you have with someone do not quite line up, or you may not have these meetings at all. My please for you is to consider if you should do something about that. If you have an accountability partner, then ask him/her if they are willing to change what the meetings look like. Spend time praying that God would change your heart, and their heart. Don’t rush them if you are convinced things needs to change. Be patient with them, don’t give up on them, and seek to show them love as you guide them to what you think accountability should look like.
If you do not have accountability, consider who you might ask. Spend time praying for God to bring someone into your life. You can also consider talking with your pastor, deacon, or someone else in your life that provides discipleship/soul care. If you are not able to find the right person, be patient. It is better to wait and find a person that is excited about accountability than to compromise and pick someone whom you know is not excited or ready for it.
It is a marathon, not a sprint
Lastly, remember that accountability is not a sprint, it is a marathon. You need to be patient as you both grow. It can be tempting to draw conclusions based on what you see at the moment. Paul reminds us to not look to what is seen, but to what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Endure with your partner, and with yourself. Look to the long game and not the short game.