This is a guest post from my friends, Justin and Trisha Davis. They know all too well the dangers of settling for an ordinary marriage. Their own failure to recognize the warning signs almost resulted in the end of their marriage, their family, and their ministry.
Justin and Trisha are bloggers, authors, speakers and founders of RefineUs Ministries (Facebook). Sharing their story of pain, loss and redemption, RefineUs is igniting a movement to build healthy marriages and families.
They are the co-authors of their first book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, published by Tyndale House Publishers.
The Davises are bloggers and teachers who make their home in Nashville, TN with their three boys.
If you want accountability in your life, you’ve got to take responsibility.
image by Cassandra Security
Nobody will do that for you. Others can pour into you, teach you, model for you, and share resources with you. But if you want accountability, you’ve got to take that responsibility on yourself. I’ve asked people to help me with certain aspects of my spiritual life. Sometimes it’s “worked.” Many times, it hasn’t. But I’ve learned some principles along the way that have helped ensure success.
8 principles in seeking spiritual accountability
1. Ask for it.
If you don’t ask, nobody will respond. You need these deep relationships that help you with your personal spiritual growth.
2. Help define what it needs to look like.
Don’t just assume that if you ask someone, they’ll instantly know what accountability needs to look like for you. You have to help set the paramaters. How often? What will you talk about? What questions should they ask you?
3. Be vulnerable and share your story.
Otherwise, how can someone else help? If they don’t know who you are, where you’ve been, and the weak spots in your life, they’ll have no idea how to help you grow.
4. Take a risk.
You’ll never know if the person on the other end, that you’re asking to step into that relationship with you, is 100% trustworthy. This is a step of faith, not a step of pre-knowledge.
5. Remember that accountability is a two-way street.
This isn’t a cure-all solution. You’ve got to be doing the difficult task of working on yourself and your own shortcomings. Having someone “hold you accountable” doesn’t assure you’re accountable. You’ve got to continue to actively pursue that relationship, and be open and honest with where you are at all along the way.
6. Give the other person the room to say, “No.”
This is a big responsibility that you’re asking someone to. Give them the freedom to say that this is not the right season for them. Forced accountability rarely works. Both parties have to be willing to step in and do the hard work.
7. You have to continue to drive the relationship.
Don’t expect that you can ask once, share your story, and the other person will then magically follow up with you exactly when you need it. You’re the one asking for accountability. You need to be the one driving this relationship.
8. Ask for grace.
Since accountability isn’t a cure-all, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up again. In a big way. And this is where many “accountability partners” fall apart. If you’ve messed up, you think, “I can’t possibly be honest about this with him now.” And he’ll think, “I guess I’ve failed at holding him accountable.” What needs to happen is what happened in the beginning: grace. Set out from the beginning this idea that if failure happens, grace is the knee-jerk response.
You need someone to spur you on. (Hebrews 10:24) You’re too weak on your own to fight sin, insecurities, and the battles that rage against you doing what God’s calling you to do. You need someone who’s got your back. You need someone who is going to encourage you on the good days and the bad. You need a warrior who won’t give up on you, who knows where you’re headed, and is willing to walk through the dark and the light to help you get there.
So encourage each other and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Do you have someone who’s intentionally encouraging you and helping hold you accountable?
Have you seen this kind of relationship misused? Where one (or both) parties expected too much?
(graphic by Kyle Key)
Is it healthier to…
1. Be regularly accountable to someone who is like you, who struggles with some of the same things you struggle with, and who knows exactly where you are coming from (because he or she has been, and maybe even still is, there)?
2. Be regularly accountable to someone who is not like you, struggles with things you do not struggle with, and has no issue with the thing(s) that easily entice you?
3. Be regularly accountable to nobody but God and yourself?
I just had lunch with a guy in our small groups ministry, and we talked about the importance of accountability. We talked about the fact that we all need to have those people in our lives who know everything about us, and are not afraid to ask us difficult, awkward, yet ultimately Christ-honoring, sin-defeating questions. We need those people who know all of our junk, yet love us still the same. They don’t love our junk, but they love the chance to help point out the sinful habits and blind spots that we have, and those things (whether good or bad) that ensnare us. They’re not satisfied with letting us continue in our sin because they “know that he (Jesus) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:5-6). We are sinful creatures, and our sin loses its power when it’s confessed, and brought into the light.
How do you make sure you’re held accountable? Are you accountable to anyone other than God? Are you accountable to anyone other than your spouse?
How can you, as a group leader, help those in your group be accountable to each other?
1. Foster an environment of authenticity and vulnerability. Be real with your struggles, failings, and sinful tendencies. You’re not perfect, and your group members know that. When you mess up, confess it!
2. Divide your group based on gender for times of prayer. I don’t like to air out my dirty laundry in front of another man’s wife, and I’m sure that you feel similarly. Guys can be more openly honest when it’s just guys in the room. We understand each other better, know how we think and operate, and often know how to minister to each other and hold each other accountable better than you do. The same holds true for girls.
3. If you’re the leader, meet with group members (who share the same gender with you) outside of the normal group meeting. These times are great for building relationship, and opening up with areas of your lives that are not as easy to bring up in a larger group setting.
4. Choose curriculum, and ask questions in the group, that cover a wide variety of Scriptures and topics. You won’t know what areas people in your group struggle with until you ask.
5. Encourage group members to find somebody that can hold them accountable. It can be another person in the group, or a believer outside of the group, but it does not have to be you, the leader. Your role as the leader is to encourage others to put themselves into relationships full of confession, love, and vulnerability.
Accountability, just like spiritual growth, doesn’t just happen. You have to desire it, and you have to seek it. Accountability is crucial to your growth in Christlikeness. How much do you care about your growth?