My early experience of ‘accountability groups’ was often discouraging. You have a regular set of people who you meet with regularly to discuss areas in which you hope to develop. But growth is difficult and slow, so weekly meetings to review areas of growth potential often felt like a review of personal failures. It is this fear of failure—even lightly publicized failure—that drive many to reject the prospect and practice of accountability. Despite those misapplications and fears, accountability properly enacted is a life-giving prospect. Everyone should desire it and seek out accountability. Here are three reasons why:
- The real situation is the only one we can change. It is shocking that often we are unaware of reality as it pertains to ourselves. It is stunning that we can be with ourselves all the time (brilliant observation) and yet oftentimes deceive ourselves. Psalm 19:12 says in a prayer to God: ‘But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.’ Like the back of your head or the spot between your shoulder blades, others can provide the mirror that we need to see ourselves more clearly.
- Only what is measured improves. Entrepreneur Peter Drucker is attributed this observation, and it is insightful. That does not mean it is simple. One of the challenges, particularly with important character traits, is how do you measure growth? It is easier to measure profit/loss, the number of employees in your office, the number of sales you made, rather than trying to measure patience or love. In relation to accountability, those around us that we value and trust can often perceive the truth about how we are doing better than we can. We need to seek their counsel particularly in areas that are difficult to measure.
- Accountability is grounded in grace. This is what I was lacking in those early groups. Not that others were not gracious, but I did not understand grace very well. There is such a thing as destructive criticism. Some get pleasure from exposing others failings. Those are not safe people to which to be accountable. A healthy perspective understands that everyone is beautiful and broken. We are beautiful because we are made in God’s image with immense value (Genesis 1:26-27). We are also broken, fallen by sin and capable of every wrong (Genesis 3:1-19). God’s grace does not revel in brokenness, but exposes it in order to heal it. These are the kinds of people we want to seek out and trust to make us accountable. The Biblical book of Proverbs 27:6 says, ‘Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.’
If you are looking for healthy accountability, if you feel anonymous or adrift, we at YBL would like to help. We will do our best to connect you with the kinds of people who will build you up, strengthen, and help to watch over you on the journey!