Accountability is good. How many times have you heard a pastor say these things:
Get accountable, Get into groups where you can be accountable, Integrity starts with accountability,and True health start with accountability. We love this and cheer it on but the process of holding someone accountable now that’s a different story.
Most people shy away from this for a few different reasons. First no one like conflict. In the church we spend a great deal of time trying to avoid conflict and play nice. Second we feel like we are being to straightforward. “If you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all.” Many of us have had this pounded into our heads as we were growing up and so to speak negatively toward someone is not something we do. Third we value relationships. If I call someone out they may leave the relationship. They may get mad and our friendship may be over. This fear will keep people from asking the hard questions but that is exactly what we need in accountability groups.
In many accountability groups we hope the person is just doing “fine” or that they lie and say that so we can just move on to another conversation. This isn’t real accountability. Real accountability holds the truth higher than friendship, real accountability honors one another with asking the tough questions. Real accountability asks questions when people say they are “fine”. Real accountability is difficult but real accountability changes lives.
So how, exactly, do we keep people accountable? The first thing we need to remember is that we can’t. People are only as accountable as they are willing to be. If someone is willing to submit to the process and answer questions honestly than accountability can happen. If they don’t want to be accountable than we become codependent by trying to force a process on them that they don’t want.
Here are the things we can do when we are asked to be an accountability partner.
- Ask hard questions
This is our job. We need to ask the tough questions even when we don’t want the answers. Remember that what is desired from an accountability relationship is real answers to real questions.
- Lean into conflict
Try to stay focused on the issues. Real relationships will have times of conflict and strife. No one likes conflict but true friends don’t let us off the hook.
- Be straightforward
Calling someone out on the carpet can be a daunting experience. Try to remind yourself that this is your job. If they are not looking for this type of relationship than just call it coffee and not accountability.
- Make consequences
Without consequences we will continue our bad behavior without even thinking. There are always consequences for actions in life, this relationship should be no different. Firm boundaries help everybody in the end. One word of warning don't make loss of relationship a consequence. No one wants to feel like if they tell the truth you will go away.
My Prayer is that we would all enter into these types of relationships. That we would all have people in our lives that ask the “hard” questions. That we would have friends that would be straightforward and not let us off the hook when we are not answering honestly. Remember true life change isn’t easy and isn’t fun but in the end it will produce the kind of life that is worthy of the gospel.