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What is Accountability?

Traditional accountability is one of my pet peeves in the Church. Here’s why: in my experiences it’s most often a simple reporting of one’s sin with the emphasis on vanquishing the sin itself.

Why does the reporting bother me? If authenticity is letting someone walk around in your house, this kind of accountability is like telling your accountability partner, “There’s no need for you to go inside. I’ll just give you a manifest of the number of cockroaches in my living room.” I think this is one of the big reasons folks can be in “accountability groups” for years without experiencing much in the way of freedom or growth. This kind of accountability is antithetical to true relationship.

My other beef with it is the emphasis on fighting a certain sin. In a twisted way that sin can become an idol–you spend all your time and energy on it. I am NOT trying to say that extra emphasis on an area isn’t beneficial. I think it’s often (if not always) necessary to spend extra time and energy on any area where you’re trying to change. However, when we view the sin as the problem, we miss out on the stuff underneath and around it.

For instance, if I’m “being accountable” to someone for the number of times I yell at my kids in a week, that’s all we’re talking about. When I yell at them, I feel guilty and/or shamed because I can’t seem to stop. On the other hand, if I’m letting my accountability partner walk around in my house and she says, “Now wait a minute, what was going on at the time. Why did you yell?,” suddenly I start seeing that I yell when I feel like my kids aren’t listening to me. I realize I have deep wounds involving people ignoring me and feeling unimportant. I haven’t ever let God heal me, so anytime someone triggers those wounds, I lash out. Or maybe I find out that I’m terrified of things flying out of control so I try to control my kids instead of shepherding them. I lash out when I feel out of control because I don’t comprehend the reality of my lack of control or the depth of God’s sovereignty.

Does this sound more like therapy than accountability? Probably. But as my therapist friends have said, if the Church was doing our job as a hospital for the broken, they would be out of a job. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have someone help me grow than have someone simply monitor my lack of growth.

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2 thoughts on “What is Accountability?”

  1. Right. If you have an accountability group and they all know that you have a problem with X or Y sin, and you just go in and say I did Y sin three times this week, and you do that every week, they’ll get used to it and so will you. Accountability shouldn’t be just a mere statement of fact (although that is involved), but an active attempt to overcome those facts.

    Accountability, whether in group or individual form, has almost always bored me for this reason. You only read your Bible once this week? Great, welcome to the club. What’s next? Sin as an action is just too easy to gloss over. Sin as a state of being, connected to everything that we are and ever will be, that’s another thing entirely – the thing that we are all afraid of.

    1. Totally agree! It makes me so sad to see that kind of accountability touted as the way to do things… folks can check it off their list without ever really experiencing the benefits of real authenticity and real accountability.

      It is a whole lot safer to do things that way! It’s scary to come face to face with the depth and pervasiveness of your sin, scary to reveal it to someone else, and scary to sit with someone while they go to that place in themselves (vs. trying to fix, etc.). Pretty amazing how much Christianity is about being, and how being can transform yourself and those around you. Been thinking a lot about that lately 🙂 Realizing that I frantically try to stop acting like a control freak instead of focusing on being/resting.

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