By Barbara Comito, UGM Marketing Director
Who would ever read a blog post on Total Accountability? My staff said they wouldn’t. (So I changed the title. Tricky me.)
Being held accountable is like lima beans or dental floss or stomach crunches…You know it’s good for you, but you hate it. At least I do. I don’t want to be called out on my stuff. I really don’t. Even more, though, at some really deep gut level, I don’t want to wander off the map into a deadly mire of selfishness, jealousy and rebellion – accountable only to myself. Deep down, I know I need help to be who I really want to be.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” (Lyric from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”)
Total Accountability: What is it?
According to Merriam-Webster, accountability is pretty much synonymous with accepting responsibility.
Accountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. (Don’t you just hate it when dictionaries use a form of the word to define the word? Argh.)
Accountable: subject to giving an account: answerable
Account: a statement explaining one’s conduct
We here at UGM use the phrase “Total Accountability” in a more expansive way. Accepting responsibility for one’s own actions is the start, but our definition goes much deeper and wider. We mean:
- There is a clear standard by which all of our behavior can be evaluated. It is set out in Scripture and modeled by the person of Jesus Christ.
- Life is not meant to be done in isolation. When we determine what is “right in our own eyes,” we get it wrong. We must intentionally put ourselves in relationship with other people and invite them to graciously hold us to the standard.
- We recognize that our behavior, even our thoughts, affect those around us and we need to take that into account, asking ourselves, “How did my decision affect the environment around me?”
Men and women involved in UGM’s recovery programs, both participants and staff, put these principles into practice every day through the self-evaluation process (a tool created by Grace Network International). They answer questions about how decisions they made drew them further from or closer to the standard of Christ-likeness and how their decision impacted the community in which they live. They then read their answers in front of others in the program and invite questions so that they can fully evaluate their behavior. Talk about tough work – but they’re committed, because accountability is one of the most important difference-makers for people living in recovery.
Some people complete our long-term recovery program, solid by all appearances, but then they try to go it on their own. In these situations, they nearly always fail because they’ve neglected accountability.
That’s the beauty of ongoing support groups like AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, and UGM’s new endeavor, Recovery for Life. Frankly, when it’s working correctly, that’s also the beauty of the church. We are the Body of Christ – here to love, encourage, uphold, bear one another’s burdens and exhort – which bring us to the most important piece of this post: Accountability isn’t only important for people in recovery; it’s imperative for all of us.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Accountability vs. Freedom
At first glance, accountability may appear to diminish personal freedom: I have my own relationship with God. If I’m doing something wrong, the Holy Spirit will convict me. I don’t need other people to tell me what to do. It’s me and God. We’re in this together, and no one else has the right to interfere with that.
Hmm…there’s some truth there. The Holy Spirit is at work in the life of the believer – convicting and giving counsel. As Christians, we have direct access to God. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” (Hebrews 10:19-22). You and I can come boldly to the throne of God. We can talk directly to him, and we can listen for his response. But our relationship with him doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Just a few verses later, the passage quoted above says we should not neglect meeting together because we need encouragement. The metaphor of the church as the Body of Christ, as described in Ephesians and elsewhere, rules out the idea of “just me and God” to the exclusion of everyone else.
UGM recovery counselor Yvonne Wilhelm explains how freedom and accountability fit together: “True freedom is not the ability to do as we please but to do what we have seen Christ and others do: walk in obedience. The victory comes when we submit our life and our will to God, confess to others about our behaviors that draw us away from Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to convict us and move us toward change. We need to ask one or more trustworthy people to hold us accountable for the changes we want to make.”
Scripture encourages us to confess our sins to each other so that we might pray for one another and be healed (James 5:16).
Questions to consider: What type of accountability do you have built into your life? Who do you trust to speak the truth in love to you? Is there someone (or a group of people) to whom you regularly confess your sins and ask them to pray for you?
Accountability vs. Judgment
You know the passage about the log in your own eye and the speck in your brother’s? Judgment is a big topic, certainly big enough for its own blog post, but for now, I just want to make a critical point with regard to accountability versus judgment.
Accountability starts with me building a support group of trustworthy people – people who I know are walking with Christ and working on their own stuff – and inviting them into my life.
Accountability does not start with me setting myself up as the policeman or judge of Christ-like behavior – going around calling everyone else on their stuff. There may be a time and a place for confronting someone who has not invited us to do so, but it is rare and certainly requires that we are seeking accountability ourselves.
Even in a trust-based accountability group, my manner of approach is also important. It shouldn’t be, “here’s what you’re doing wrong,” Yvonne says. Christian accountability says, “This is not who you are. This is what you are doing, and it is drawing you away from who God says you are and what he wants for you. How can I help?”
If your answers to the earlier questions left you thinking you need to build more accountability into your life, here are some possible next steps:
- Make a commitment to be in church on a regular basis.
- Look around you. Who in your circle of friends is living a life of joyful dependence on God? Ask him/her for coffee and talk about where you both are in your walk with God.
- Ask God to open your eyes to people in your life who could both encourage and spur you to spiritual growth.
- Confess your struggles/sins with someone safe. Start small. You don’t need to unload everything all at once. Start with one struggle with one safe person. Ask him/her to pray for you.
Part of creating healthy accountability is understanding who people really are, not just who they appear to be or what others call them. Delve deeper with our free "Lose the Label" Study Guide by clicking below.